Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

Full text of "Sir William Butler, an autobiography"

See other formats


^■si^,~f-    ■'■■ 


3. 


:v/ 


0  J    ,c,^* 


,-ii1 


i 


SIR    WILLIAM    BUTLER 


''Si 


Photogravure  by  Annan  iSono. Glasgow 


SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER 


AN    AUTOBIOGRAPHY 


BY 


LIEUT. -GENERAL  THE  RT.  HON, 

SIR  W.   F.   BUTLER 

G.  G.  B. 


WITH  FOUR  PORTRAITS  IN  PHOTOGRAVURE 


LONDON 
CONSTABLE    AND    COMPANY   LTD. 

10  ORANGE  STREET  LEICESTER  SQUARE  W.C.  ^ 

^  1911 


CONTENTS 


PAGE 

Foreword  ..........  xi 


CHAPTER  I 

Earliest     Recollections.     The     Irish     Famine.     '  Butler's     Country.' 

School.     Gazetted  Ensign  to  the  69th  Regiment  ....  1 

CHAPTER  II 

Old  soldiers  and  young.     Orders  for  India.     A  four  months'  voyage. 

Burmah  ...........  15 

CHAPTER  III 

From  Rangoon  to  Madras.  A  hurricane  at  sea.  The  Nilgherry 
Mountains.  The  Carnatic  Plain.  The  lives  and  thoughts  of 
Eastern  peoples.     Leave  spent  on  the  western  coast      ...  34 

CHAPTER  IV 

Down  to  Cape  Comorin,  and  back  to  Madras.     The  scene  of  a  bygone 

massacre.     Starting  for  England.     St.  Helena      ....  52 

CHAPTER  V 

Aldershot.     Visit    to    the    Belgian    battlefields.     Afterthoughts    on 

Waterloo 68 

CHAPTER  VI 

The  Channel  Isles.     Victor  Hugo.     The  Curragh.     To  Canada.     Leave 

in  the  West.     Bufialo  hunt         .......  83 

CHAPTER  VII 

A  new  conception  of  life.     In  charge  of  the  '  Look  Outs.'     Montreal 
and    Quebec.     Home.     Father's    death.     A    hopeless    outlook    in 
the  Army  ..........  98 

ft2 


vi    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

CHAPTER  VIII 

PAGE 

The  Red  River  Expedition.  Under  Colonel  Wolseley.  Fenians. 
The  purchase  system.  No  step  after  twelve  years'  service.  Paris. 
The  end  of  the  Commune  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .112 

CHAPTER  IX 

Paris  in  her  agony.  Writing  The  Cheat  Lone  Land.  On  half-pay. 
Bound  for  the  Saskatchewan.  The  lonely  journey.  Home. 
Ashanti.     With  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley  again  .  .  .  .130 

CHAPTER  X 

West  Coast  of  Africa.     '  The  Wolseley  Gang.'     Beating  up  the  natives. 

Recalcitrant  kings.     Fever.     The  forest.     Invading  Ashanti  .        147 

CHAPTER  XI 

An  excuse  for  the  craven  native.  End  of  the  Expedition.  Near'death 
from  fever.  Queen  Victoria's  visit  to  Netley.  Companion  of  the 
Bath.  Start  for  Natal.  With  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley  again.  Pro- 
tector of  Indian  immigrants.  The  Tugela.  Through  the  Orange 
Free  State 164 

CHAPTER  XII 

The  state  of  South  Africa  in  1875.  On  the  Staff  at  the  War  Office. 
MiUtary  administration.  First  meeting  with  Gordon.  Marriage. 
War  in  Eastern  Europe.  Annexation  of  the  Transvaal.  Visit  to 
Cyprus.     The  Zulu  War.     Isandula.     Departure  for  South  Africa         183 

CHAPTER  XIII 

Assistant  Adjutant-General  in  Natal.  Death  of  the  Prince  Imperial. 
Advance  into  Zululand.  Ulundi.  Transports  for  England.  Im- 
prisonment of  Cetewayo.     St.  Helena  again  .  .  .  .198 

CHAPTER  XIV 

War  in  South  Africa.  Majuba.  Adjutant-General  in  the  Western 
District.  The  Egyptian  question.  Bombardment  of  Alexandria. 
Arabi.  Service  in  Egypt.  On  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley's  Staff.  EI 
Magfar.  Tel-el-Mahouta.  Kassassin.  The  night  march.  Tel- 
el-Kebir 216 


CONTENTS  vii 

CHAPTER  XV 

PAGE 

Cairo.     The  fate  of  Arabi  in  the  balance.     Mr.  Wilfrid  Blunt.     Leaving 

Egypt.     To  the  Saskatchewan  again.     The  Red  Man    .  .  .       238 


CHAPTER  XVI 

The  Hudson  Bay  forts.  Winnipeg.  Back  to  London.  Trouble  on 
the  Upper  Nile.  Revolt  of  the  Mahdi.  Destruction  of  the  forces 
of  Hicks  Pasha  and  Baker  Pasha.  General  Gordon  sent  to  the 
Soudan.  Gordon  and  the  garrisons  in  danger.  Delay  and  vacilla- 
tion at  home.     Bmldingof  Nile  '  whalers.'     Ascent  of  the  Nile         .        26(J 


CHAPTER  XVII 

Delays  on  the  Nile.  Success  of  the  '  whalers.'  Letters.  Korti.  The 
Desert  column.  Fall  of  Khartoum.  The  River  column.  Kir- 
bekan.     News  of  Gordon's  death  ......       281 


CHAPTER  XVIII 
Meroe.     Wady  Haifa.     Kosheh.     Advance  of  the  Dervishes.     Ginniss       307 


CHAPTER  XIX 

« 

Back  to  Wady  Haifa.  Letters.  Sickness  among  the  troops.  Leav- 
ing the  Soudan.  Assouan.  Home  on  sick  leave.  Half-pay  in 
Brittanj'.     K.C.B 329 


CHAPTER  XX 

In  Delgany,  Ireland.     Parnell.     Army  Ordnance  Enquiry  :    Report.     * 
Proposed    fortifications    for    London.     Command    at    Alexandria. 
Death  of  Khedive  Tewfik.     Palestine.  .  .  .  .  .351 


CHAPTER  XXI 

End  of  Alexandria  command.  Aldershot.  The  Jameson  Raid.  Com- 
mand of  the  South-Eastern  District,  Dover.  Offer  of  command  at 
the  Cape.  Arrival  in  South  Africa,  Acting  High  Commissioner. 
Initial  difficulties.  Mr.  Cecil  Rhodes.  Grahamstown.  '  Cape 
Boys.'     The '  Edgar  Case ' 376 


t 


viii    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

CHAPTER  XXII 

PAGE 

The  South  African  League.  The  true  life  of  the  land.  Apparent 
public  opinion.  Warnings  to  the  Government  of  real  position. 
Return  of  Sir  Alfred  Milner.  Tour  of  inspection.  Scheme  of 
defence.  Uncertainty  at  Headquarters  in  London.  Interviews 
and  correspondence  with  the  High  Commissioner.  Absence  of 
m  instructions  from  England  .......        404 

CHAPTER  XXIII 

The  Bloemfontein  Conference.  Two  interesting  letters.  Further 
interviews  and  correspondence.  Proposed  raid  from  Tuli.  De- 
spatch of  22nd  June  to  the  Secretary  of  State.  Some  cablegrams 
from  and  to  the  War  Office.  Increased  difficulty  of  the  position. 
Resignation  of  the  Command.     Departure  from  South  Africa         .        431 

Afterword  ..........       456 

Index  .....'......       461 


ILLUSTRATIONS 

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL  SIR  W.  F.  BUTLER,  K.C.B.  Frontispiece 

From  a  sketch  by  Lady  Butleb,  made  at  the  Cape  in  Juue 
1899. 

ENSIGN  W.  F.  BUTLER Facing  page     14 

At  the  age  of  twenty,  on  joining  the  Service  in  1858. 

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL  W.  F.  BUTLER,  C.B.  .  „  250 

Taken  in  1883  as  Queen's  A.D.C. 

MAJOR-GENERAL  SIR  W.  F.  BUTLER,  K.C.B.  .  „  392 

Taken  in  1898,  commanding  the  South-Eastern  Distinct. 

MAPS— 

Map  of  the  West  Coast  of  Africa         ....  ..  150 

Map  of  the  Nile „  240 


• 


i ' 


FOREWORD 

My  father  began  this  Autobiography  in  March  1909,  and 
worked  leisurely  at  it  up  to  within  a  few  days  of  his  un- 
expected death  on  7th  June  1910. 

The  manuscript  breaks  off  in  the  middle  of  the  last  chapter, 
which  deals  with  the  end  of  his  command  in  South  Africa  ; 
and  though,  on  his  deathbed,  he  entrusted  the  task  of  com- 
pleting this  chapter  to  me,  I  was  unable  to  learn  his  wishes 
as  to  the  sources  of  information  among  his  papers  to  which  I 
should  apply.  On  finding  the  detailed  '  Narrative  of  Events,' 
which  he  wrote  shortly  after  his  return  from  the  Cape,  I  thought 
I  could  not  do  better  than  adhere  solely  to  this  record. 

The  reader  will  understand  the  onerous  nature  of  my  task, 
for,  while  keeping  closely  to  the  'Narrative,'  I  have  realised  the 
necessity  for  abbreviation  and  condensation,  without  omitting 
what  appeared  to  be  essentials.  Whether  my  father  would 
have  wished  for  more  or  for  fewer  omissions,  I  cannot  say  ; 
but  I  have  inclined  towards  few,  for  fear  of  losing  anything 
he  would  have  wished  retained. 

EILEEN  BUTLER. 


•  • 


SIR   WILLIAM    BUTLER 

AN   AUTOBIOGRAPHY 
CHAPTER  I 

Earliest  recollections.     The  Irish  famine.     '  Butler's  country.' 
School.     Gazetted  ensign  to  the  69th  Regiment. 

Had  it  been  possible  for  any  one  child  to  tell  us  exactly  what 
he  saw  when  he  first  opened  his  eyes,  that  earliest  impression 
of  the  world  would  probably  have  proved  the  most  interesting 
brain-picture  ever  given  by  an  individual  to  the  general  public. 
Nothing  like  it  could  ever  have  been  told  by  him  in  later  life. 

'  We  awake  at  our  birth,'  somebody  says,  '  staring  at  a 
very  funny  place.  After  serious  examination  of  it  we  receive 
two  fairly  definite  impressions — delight  and  fear."  He  puts  the 
sensation  of  delight  first,  that  of  fear  second.  That  is  right ; 
but  do  they  keep  these  places  always  ?  I  think  the  verdict  of 
humanity  would  be  that  Life  was  a  longer  or  shorter  process  of 
the  change  of  place  between  these  two  predominant  powers. 

Our  delight  at  the  first  sight  of  earth  we  are  able  to  recall 
only  dimly  in  after  time.  The  fear  is  bound  to  grow.  Once 
at  St.  Helena  there  came  a  huge  avalanche  of  rock,  loosened 
from  an  overhanging  mountain,  in  the  dead  of  night,  crashing 
down  upon  the  poor  straggling  smgle  street  of  Jamestown. 
It  crushed  to  powder  two  houses,  killing  instantly  sixteen  men 
and  women.  When  daylight  came,  the  frightened  neighbours, 
climbing  through  the  rums,  found  a  three-months-old  baby 
lying  on  its  back  close  by  the  mountain  boulder,  alive,  kicking 
and  crowing — every  other  thing  was  dead.  To  the  baby  the 
rock  was  only  a  new  possession.     That  is  the  whole  point. 

Anyway,  our  child-world  was  a  happy  one.  Everything  was 
ours — the  green  foreground  where  the  spotted  pet  rabbits 
nibbled  and  nuzzled  together  ;  beyond  these,  long  glimpses  of 
green  grass  seen  between  lime  and  beech  trees  ;  then  a  glisten- 

A  • 


2       SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

ing  river,  with  shimmering  shallows  and  bending  sallows  ; 
beyond  that,  more  green  fields  ;  and  then  a  long  blue  mountain 
range,  which  grew  bolder  and  loftier  as  it  stretched  westward, 
where  it  ended  in  two  peaked  summits,  behind  which  the  sun 
went  down  only  to  come  up  again  next  morning  at  the  east 
end  of  the  range — our  sole  unquestioned  property  still.  Such 
are  my  earliest  recollections  of  the  home  of  '  the  little  sallow  ' 
— Bally  slat  een,  where  I  first  saw  the  light  on  the  31st  of 
October  1838,  the  seventh  child  of  Richard  and  Ellen  Butler. 
The  world,  as  the  young  child  saw  it,  was  a  very  different 
place  from  the  world  which  the  older  child  was  to  hear  and 
realise  a  few  years  later.  The  early  "forties  gave  no  warning 
word  of  what  the  decade  would  do  in  Ireland  before  it  closed. 
I  was  about  eight  years  old  when  the  crash  came.  The  country 
about  where  we  lived  in  Tipperary  was  swarming  with  people. 
Along  the  road  were  cabins  or  little  thatched  mud-cottages  at 
every  hundred  or  hundred  and  fifty  paces.  I  had  been  taken 
at  the  age  of  four  years  to  live  with  a  maternal  aunt  and  uncle 
at  Artane,  near  Dublin,  a  charming  spot  three  miles  from  the 
city  ;  and  in  this  second  home,  with  the  kindest  relations 
that  child  could  have,  I  spent  the  years  from  1842  to  1846. 
These  years  are,  of  course,  only  a  bright  hour  in  memory  now, 
but  one  or  two  events  stand  out  in  clearest  light.  I  stiU 
retain  the  recollection  of  being  taken  into  a  large  building, 
the  name  of  which  I  knew  only  in  after  years.  Richmond 
Penitentiary  it  was  caUed.  We  passed  through  big  gates  and 
doors,  and  came  out  mto  a  garden  which  had  a  very  high  wall 
around  it.  Following  a  walk  to  a  spot  where  another  walk 
crossed  ours,  we  found  a  group  of  strange  men,  with  one  very 
big  burly  man  among  them.  I  remember  the  scene  particu- 
larly, for  the  reason  that  there  were  a  good  many  apple-trees 
growing  on  either  side  of  the  walks,  and  the  fruit  was  suffi- 
ciently large  upon  them  to  rivet  my  attention  while  the  older 
members  of  the  party  were  conversing  with  the  burly  man 
and  his  companions.  All  at  once  the  big  figure  moved  forward, 
and,  taking  me  in  his  arms,  lifted  me  above  his  head,  while  he 
shouted  in  a  great  strong  voice,  '  Hurrah  for  Tipperary  !  '  The 
big  man  was  Daniel  O'Connell,  and  the  time  must  have  been 
in  the  June  of  1844  ;  for  he  was  in  Richmond  Prison  from  May 
to  September  of  that  year. 


'  THE  BLACK  FORTY-SEVEN  '  3 

Early  in  1846  I  was  taken  from  these  loving  relations  at 
Artane  back  to  the  Tipperary  home.  It  was  a  two  days'  coach 
journey,  of  which  I  remember  Httle  beyond  the  grief  of  the 
first  day  at  parting  from  these  beloved  ones  ;  and  the  grey 
monotony  of  the  second  day  passing  slowly  through  long 
stretches  of  bog  until  at  last,  as  evening  was  closing,  the  great 
towers  and  battlements  of  the  Rock  of  Cashel  rose  before  the 
post-chaise  in  the  gloaming  ;  but  another  weary  hour  had  to 
pass  before  home  was  reached.  When  we  were  quite  near 
home,  my  sister,  who  knew  the  road  thoroughly,  began  to  name 
the  persons  whose  cottages  we  should  have  to  pass  before  our 
gate  was  reached.  She  repeated  about  a  dozen  names,  I  being 
terribly  tired,  the  list  gave  me  the  idea  that  we  had  still  a  long 
road  to  travel,  and  I  heard  it  with  dismay  ;  but  my  alarm  was 
needless,  the  distance  was  only  a  few  hundred  yards.  I  passed 
along  that  same  road  a  few  days  ago  :  not  one  house,  not  even 
the  site  of  a  house,  can  now  be  discerned  there.  In  that 
month  of  March  1846  the  famine  which  was  to  sweep  four 
millions  of  Irish  peasants  out  of  Ireland  was  about  to  begin 
its  worst  slaughter.  The  following  winter  brought  '  the  black 
forty-seven.'  It  was  a  terrible  time.  Everywhere  the  unfor- 
tunate people  sickened,  died,  or  fled.  There  was  no  prepara- 
tion, no  warning  ;  the  blow  fell  straight.  The  halting  and 
creaking  machinery  of  the  State  could  not  cope  with  this 
sudden  onslaught.  A  second  or  third  rate  despot  could  have 
at  least  parried  the  blow  ;  but  a  constitutional  government 
face  to  face  with  a  sudden  crisis  is  as  helpless  as  a  stranded 
whale  m  an  ebb-tide. 

My  father  and  the  better-endowed  neighbours  flung  them- 
selves bravely  against  the  advancing  plagues  of  famine  and 
fever.  Their  purses  were  none  too  flush  ;  but  they  gave 
liberally.  They  bought  meal  in  the  nearest  town  where  it 
could  be  got,  carried  it  fourteen  miles  by  cart,  and,  under 
escort  of  pohce,  gave  it  to  the  famishing  people.  I  have  some 
of  the  old  books  still  which  hold  the  record  and  keep  the 
accounts  of  these  weekly  distributions.  They  are  pitiful  reading. 
They  range  from  early  February  to  the  end  of  July  1847.  The 
Uttle  entries  opposite  the  names  of  rehef  recipients  are  more 
striking  in  their  briefness  than  elaborate  descriptions  of  misery 
could  be.     Here  are  some  of  them. 


4      SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

*  Kitty  Marony  and  three  children.  Her  husband  has  gone 
from  her  and  she  doesn't  know  where  he  went." 

'  The  widow  and  five  children,  two  and  a  half  stone 

weekly.' 

*  Nicholas  Murphy  and  four  children  ;  has  an  old  cow/ 
'  Edward  Mockler  of "  the  Idiot  "  is  receiving.' 

'  The  cost  of  the  Indian  meal  varies  between  1/4  and  1/10 
the  stone.' 

Sometimes  a  name  disappears  from  the  list,  and  the  entry 
column  knows  it  no  more. 

The  records  end  in  July  1847,  perhaps  because  the  Govern- 
ment machinery  had  then  got  into  working  order,  or  because 
the  earth  had  begun  to  yield  some  stray  bits  of  nutriment 
again. 

In  September  1847,  things  looking  somewhat  brighter  I 
suppose,  I  was  sent  with  two  older  brothers  to  a  school  in  the 
King's  County  called  Tullabeg.  This  estabhshment  was  con- 
ducted by  the  Jesuit  Fathers.  It  was  situated  m  the  midst  of 
a  great  region  of  bog-land,  as  the  name  implies — Tullabeg,  the 
little  bog — in  contradistinction,  I  suppose,  to  the  great  many  big 
bogs  which  surrounded  it.  My  recollections  of  this  school  are 
not  happy  ones.  I  was  nine  years  old,  and  thin  and  delicate  ; 
and  the  cold  of  the  winter,  in  that  elevated  marsh-land  which 
lies  to  the  north  of  the  Slieve  Bloom  Hills  and  almost  in  the 
centre  of  the  island,  seemed  to  strike  into  the  heart  and  soul 
of  a  frame  such  as  mine.  All  the  more  did  the  climatic 
conditions  tell  against  a  small  boy  because  the  majority 
of  the  other  boys  were  strong.  Many  of  them  were  rough, 
and,  it  is  needless  to  say,  were  as  merciless  to  their  smaller 
and  weaker  fry  as  though  the  school  had  been  of  pilchards. 
My  mother's  death  in  the  summer  of  1849  caused  us 
to  be  taken  from  school.  Things  had  grown  worse  over 
the  land.  If  actual  famine  had  lessened,  its  after  effects 
had  spread  and  deepened.  Sickness  of  many  kinds  prevailed 
everywhere,  and  contagion  carried  death  into  homes  of  rich 
and  poor  alike.  The  winter  of  1848-49  dwells  in  my  memory 
as  one  long  night  of  sorrow.  I  was  only  ten  years  old  ; 
two  children  still  younger  than  I  was  were  both  stricken  with 
the  long  wasting  fever  which  was  ravaging  the  country.  It 
was  at  this  time  that  my  mind  began  to  take  impressions 


THE  OLD  HOME  5 

which  time  has  not  been  able  to  impair,  and  to  form  thoughts 
which  experience  of  hfe  has  only  tended  to  deepen. 

In  what  manner  my  father  was  able  to  weather  the  storm 
which  had  so  suddenly  broken,  in  which  so  many  stronger  craft 
had  gone  down,  I  do  not  know,  but  he  was  a  brave  man.  The 
strange  part  of  it  was  that  it  was  all  new  work  to  him.  He  had 
not  fought  these  foes  before,  and  he  was  at  this  time  not  far 
off  his  sixtieth  year.  This  is  where  religion  comes  in.  Gradu- 
ally things  grew  better.  Youth  soon  rallied  ;  and  even  when 
things  were  at  their  worst,  we  youngsters  had  the  fields,  the 
river,  and  the  mountain  still  with  us — the  country  of  which 
Spenser  had  said  that  it  was  '  the  richest  Champain  that  may 
else  be  rid  '  ;  and  the  mountain  that  he  speaks  of  as  '  the 
best  and  fairest  hill  that  was  in  all  this  Holy  Island's  heights," 
Nor  had  he  forgotten  the  river  :  he  calls  it  '  the  gentle  Shure.' 
But  that  was  saying  little  :  gentle  it  was,  no  doubt  ;  but  many 
things  besides — ^grass-banked,  wiUowj',  winding,  pebbly,  with 
deep  limpid  pools  and  silvery  shallows — '  the  fishful  Swire/ 
another  old  writer  caUs  it.  Our  old  home  lay  at  the  other 
side  of  the  river,  and  its  name  told  the  sylvan  story  of  the 
beautiful  stream,  '  the  town-land  of  the  winding  river  ' — 
Ballycarron.  My  father  had  been  bom  there,  as  had  some 
eight  or  nine  generations  of  our  family,  since  the  time  Black 
Tom  of  Carrick^  had  settled  his  brothers  and  a  lot  of  his  followers 
west  of  the  Suir  after  the  destruction  of  the  Desmonds  in 
1584. 

The  family  traditions  were  almost  as  extensive  as  the  family 
purse  was  limited.  I  think  that  there  was  a  somewhat  similar 
antithesis  of  thought  with  us  between  purse  and  pride,  not 
uncommon  in  cases  of  the  kind — as  though  nature  had  put 
into  old  blood  some  antitoxin  to  neutralise  the  effect  of  the 
bacteria  of  poverty*.  Be  that  as  it  may,  the  river,  the  moun- 
tains, and  the  family  history  were  aU  interwoven  together. 

The  old  peasants  stiU  called  the  great  plain  that  stretched 
from  Slieve-na-Man  to  the  Galtees,  '  Butler's  country.'  The 
name  alone  survived.  The  possession  had  long  since  shrunken 
to  narrow  limits.  CromweU  had  ridden  over  it,  and  WiUiam 
had  crossed  it  agam  forty  years  later,  harrowing  where  the 
other  had  ploughed.     A  century  of  penal  law  had  bitten  out 

^  Thomas  Butler,  tenth  Earl  of  Ormond. 


6       SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

many  a  broad  acre  from  it  as  the  devil  was  said  to  have  bitten 
out  the  big  gap  in  the  '  Devil's  Bit '  Mountain,  that  bounded  our 
range  of  sight  to  the  north  as  the  Galtees  stopped  it  to  the 
south.  What  ups  and  downs  of  life  had  all  these  ups  and 
downs  of  land  surface  seen  !  Some  very  old  men  had  survived 
the  famine  and  fever  years,  and  they  were  always  ready  to 
spin  a  story  of  '  the  good  old  times  '  for  us  young  people. 

Cromwell's  war  was  not  such  a  far-away  event  in  1850  to 
men  or  women  who  could  reckon  eighty  or  ninety  years  of 
existence.  They  had  heard,  as  children,  old  men  and  women 
of  fourscore  years  telling  their  tales  by  the  winter's  fireside — 
1850,  1770,  1700,  1630— when  Oliver  Cromwell  was  farming  and 
brewing  in  Huntingdon.  A  hears  a  story  from  B  who  had 
heard  from  C  what  D  was  told  ten  years  before  the  time  when 
forty  of  the  Butlers  feU  at  Kilrush  fighting  under  Mountgarret 
in  Wexford — that  time  when  a  riderless  horse  belonging  to  one 
of  the  forty,  with  broken  bridle  and  saddle  topsy-turvy,  came 
galloping  into  the  castle  '  bawn  '  on  Kilmoyler  HiU,  a  short 
mile  across  the  fields  to  the  south  of  our  river.  The  church- 
yard lore,  too,  seemed  to  have  survived  the  wreck  of  Ufe  and 
estate  longer  than  other  traditions.  Our  famUy  burial-place 
was  by  the  old  ruined  church  of  Killardrigh,  half  a  mile  beyond 
the  hill  of  Kilmoyler.  A  fragment  of  an  old  headstone,  lying 
among  debris  near  the  east  window  of  the  Uttle  ruin,  said  that 
in  this  place  several  generations  of  the  Butlers  of  Kilmoyler, 
descendants  of  the  ninth  Earl  of  Ormond,  were  interred. 
Before  KiUardrigh,  the  old  people  said  we  had  buried  in  Lough 
Kent,  four  miles  to  the  east ;  and  before  that  at  Clerihan, 
about  the  same  distance  to  the  south-east.  This  showed  the 
steps  which  the  course  of  incessant  tribal  fighting  between  the 
Butlers  and  Desmonds  had  caused  the  family  outposts  to 
foUow,  as  the  Desmonds  were  being  slowly  pushed  back  towards 
the  west.  If  Desmond  had  '  wine  from  the  royal  Pope  '  and 
guns  from  the  King  of  Spain,  '  Black  Tom,'  in  his  great  house 
at  Carrick,  had  had  many  a  boat-load  of  arms,  powder,  and 
bullets  from  his  '  cousin  '  the  Queen  of  England.  Her  likeness 
and  royal  cipher  are  still  to  be  seen  in  Italian  stucco  work  in 
a  dozen  medallions  round  the  ruined  banqueting-hall  of  the 
castle  at  Carrick. 

In  the  old  times  neither  chief  nor  clansman  went  far  to  marry 


FATHER'S  EARLY  DAYS  7 

or  to  bury.  Wherever  you  jfind  one  of  those  lonely,  lofty, 
square  stone  towers,  called  '  castles  '  in  Ireland,  you  will  also 
find,  close  by,  the  ruined  church,  with  mounds  and  mouldering 
headstones  around  it — MuUaghnoney,  Woodenstown,  Kilna- 
cask.  Cromwell's  soldiers  smashed  them  all  to  bits,  but  the 
dead  steal  back  to  the  ruined  churches  still. 

Looking  back  now  at  the  early  days  of  my  boyhood,  I  often 
think  with  keen  regret  of  all  the  opportunities  lost  for  ever 
of  hearing  more  and  still  more  of  what  those  grand  old  people 
had  heard  or  read  of  in  their  day.  My  father  had  been  edu- 
cated at  Ulverston  in  Lancashire,  at  a  school  kept  by  Bishop 
Everard,  a  refugee  from  France  in  the  time  of  the  Revolution. 
This  remarkable  ecclesiastic,  afterwards  Archbishop  of  Cashel, 
had,  with  the  aid  of  some  of  the  old  highest  Catholic  families, 
started  a  private  school  in  the  little  Lancashire  village  in  the 
last  decade  of  the  eighteenth  century.  We  were  related 
through  marriage  with  the  family  of  Everard,  and  thus  had 
arisen  the  connection  between  teacher  and  student  at  Ulver- 
ston. What  mines  of  historic  interest  here  lay  entombed  ! 
An  Irish-French  bishop  getting  away  from  the  south  of  France 
before  Napoleon  had  taken  Toulon.  My  father  used  to  tell 
us  of  dehghtful  evenings  spent  at  the  house  of  a  Catholic  lady 
who  had  hved  at  Ulverston  at  this  time — Barbara,  Lady 
Mostyn.  She  had  early  separated  from  her  husband,  Sir  Piers 
Mostyn,  for  some  incompatibihties,  one  of  which  I  remem- 
ber. Sir  Piers  was  sitting  late  with  his  foxhunting  friends  one 
night  shortly  after  the  marriage.  My  lady  was  in  her  own 
apartments.  It  was  proposed  that  she  should  be  '  blooded  ' — 
this  ceremony  consisted  in  drinking  a  cup  of  claret  in  which 
the  brush  of  the  fox  last  killed  was  put.  My  lady  was  sent 
for.  Seated  at  the  table,  the  rite  was  explained  to  her,  and 
the  noxious  draught  placed  before  her.     She  refused  to  drink 

it.     '  By  G ,  madam,'  thundered  Sir  Piers,  '  you  will  have 

to  drink  it ;  you  must  be  "  blooded."  '  Lady  Mostyn  drank 
the  cup,  and  left  the  castle,  to  which  she  never  returned. 

Another  Ulverston  story  I  also  remember.  One  of  the  young 
men  at  the  school  (they  were  aU  of  university  age)  came  in 
from  the  garden  one  evening  showing  signs  of  great  mental 
distress.  A  strange  form,  he  said,  had  appeared  to  him  on  a 
garden  walk.     It  tried  to  utter  some  words  :    the  light  was 


8      SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

good,  he  could  not  have  been  deceived.  Next  day  he  adhered 
to  his  sto^3^  He  was  advised  to  go  back  again  to  the  spot. 
He  did  so.  The  form  again  appeared  at  the  same  place.  It 
spoke.  It  was  the  form  of  a  relation  who  was  abroad  in  some 
distant  place.  A  ship  had  gone  down  at  sea  ;  he  (the  relation) 
had  been  lost.  There  was  a  sum  of  money  owing  to  some 
person  :  the  form  had  come  to  ask  that  this  money  might  be 
paid  ;  that  was  all.     Months  later  came  the  news  of  shipwreck. 

My  father  had  lived  too  in  the  time  of  Napoleon  Bonaparte, 
and  of  that  still  more  successful  warrior,  King  George  the 
Fourth,  whose  charge  at  Waterloo,  when  Prince  Regent,  as  is 
well  known,  had  smashed  the  French  army  to  pieces.  Of  this 
last  hero  he  (my  father)  had  seen  something  :  he  saw  the  First 
Gentleman  of  Europe  standing  up  in  his  carriage,  either  in 
College  Green  or  at  the  Curragh — a  cap  of  green  velvet  with  a 
long  gold  tassel  on  his  rojaA  head,  and  a  tumbler  of  hot  whisky 
punch  in  his  roj^al  hand,  pledging  the  health  of  his  true  and 
loving  Irish  subjects  with  whom  he  had  determined  to  spend 
the  remaining  days  of  his  Ufe.  I  will  not  here  indulge  in  anj^ 
speculations  as  to  what  the  course  of  history  might  have  been 
had  this  royal  intention  been  carried  out. 

I  was  never  told,  nor  do  I  know  to  this  day,  how  it  had 
happened  that  our  family  had  been  able  to  hold  on  to  Bally- 
carron  through  all  the  vicissitudes  of  the  Penal  times.  So 
long  as  a  Stuart  was  on  the  throne  they  had  friends  of  some 
sort  at  Court  ;  but  after  the  accession  of  the  House  of  Hanover 
the  family  anxieties  must  have  been  considerable.  Among  the 
fourteen  main  clauses  of  confiscation  and  persecution  in  the 
penal  code,  there  were  at  least  three  which  must  have  made 
the  life  of  a  Catholic  gentleman  in  the  eighteenth  century  a 
very  doubtful  blessing,  and  a  most  precarious  possession. 

11.  Any  Protestant  seeing  a  Catholic  tenant  at  will  on  a 
farm,  which  in  his  opinion  yielded  one-third  more  than  the 
annual  rent,  might  enter  on  that  farm,  and  by  simply  swearing 
to  the  fact,  take  possession  of  it. 

14.  Any  Catholic  gentleman's  child  who  became  a  Protestant 
could  at  once  take  possession  of  and  assume  title  to  his  father's 
property. 

7.  Any  two  justices  of  the  peace  could  caU  any  man  over 
sixteen  years  of  age  before  them,  and  if  he  refused  to  abjure 


CROMWELLIAN  ANECDOTE  9 

the  Catholic  religion,  they  could  bestow  his  property  on  the 
Protestant  next  of  kin. 

With  provisions  of  spoliation  such  as  these,  and  there  were 
many  more  of  similar  impact,  making,  every  morning,  poverty 
a  '  possible  contingency  '  before  evening,  the  lives  of  some  of 
my  progenitors  in  Ballycarron  must  have  been  somewhat 
Damoclesian  ;  but  Nature  has  many  ways  of  correcting  the 
errors  of  the  law-maker,  and  no  doubt  she  used  them  at  this 
period  along  the  winding  river.  The  habit  of  seeking  wives 
near  at  hand  had  caused  a  very  numerous  cousinship  to  spring 
up  in  the  valley  of  the  Suir.  One  mile  down  the  river  there 
resided,  sometime  about  the  year  1750,  a  certain  '  Mosh  '  or 
Tom  Butler,  of  desperate  fighting  tenacity.  Tradition  said 
that  he  was  always  ready  to  fight  anybod}^ ;  but  the  descendant 
of  a  Cromwellian  settler  had  ever  first  claim  on  him,  and  the 
great  duel  between  him  and  one  Sadler  at  a  place  called  Ock- 
na-Gore  (the  ford  of  the  goat),  close  by  where  I  am  now  writing, 
was  a  favourite  subject  for  spirited  recital  by  elderly  black- 
smith folk  and  old  fishermen  along  the  river  when  I  was  a 
boy.  Large  crowds  had  assembled  to  see  the  fight.  The 
point  of  the  story  was  that  Sadler  was  reputed  to  wear  under 
his  clothes  a  suit  of  chain  mail,  impervious  to  the  bullet  of  that 
time.  In  loading  the  pistols,  '  Mosh's  '  second  contrived  to 
insert  a  silver  coin  as  the  wad  between  the  powder  and  the 
bullet.  The  word  was  given  ;  the  combatants  fired.  Sadler 
was  seen  to  wince  ;  *  Mosh  '  was  untouched  :  the  seconds 
declared  themselves  satisfied.  Both  combatants  mounted 
their  horses  to  return  to  their  respective  homes,  but  when 
Sadler  reached  the  ford  at  the  little  stream  of  the  Fidogtha, 
and  his  horse  bent  its  head  to  drink,  somebody  observed  blood 
running  down  the  leg  of  Sadler  and  into  his  boot.  Examina- 
tion could  no  longer  be  deferred  ;  but  while  preparations  were 
being  made  for  it  the  Cromwellian  champion  fell  from  his  horse, 
and  then  there  was  found  outside  his  net  of  steel  a  flattened 
bullet,  and  inside  the  mailed  shirt  a  small  incised  wound, 
through  which  the  silver  coin  had  found  its  way  into  a  vital 
spot.  The  old  blacksmith,  who  used  to  love  to  relate  this 
story  and  many  others  of  a  similar  kind,  was  a  philosopher  of 
no  mean  contemplative  power  ;  and  often  when  pursuing  some 
train  of  thought  he  would  sum  up  the  lost  Cause  by  carrying 


10     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

it  into  the  other  world,  and  he  would  suddenly  ask  me  such 
a  question  as,  *  Wliere  's  Cromwell  now  ?  '  or,  '  Where  's 
Ireton  to-day  ?  '  I  was  always  careful  not  to  anticipate  the 
supreme  point  by  giving  direct  answer  to  his  question  ;  but 
I  would  just  say,  '  Where  ?  '  Then  his  eyes  would  flash  like 
the  sparks  from  his  own  anvil.  '  I  '11  tell  ye,'  he  would  cry. 
'  He  's  where  he  could  kindle  his  pipe  with  his  elbow/  Then 
there  was  nothing  more  to  be  said. 

By  means  of  a  cousinship  of  the  kind  exemplified  by 
'  Mosh,'  and  a  numerous  famUy  of  the  O'Doherty  clan,  a 
member  of  which  had  moved  into  Tipperary  from  Innistown 
towards  the  close  of  the  seventeenth  century  (whose  son 
married  a  Butler  of  Ballycarron  early  in  the  eighteenth 
century),  the  eleven  hundred  acres  that  lay  within  the  town- 
lands  of  the  winding  river  had  remained  tolerably  secure 
throughout  three  hundred  years  of  penal  confiscation. 

It  was  about  1778  that  Catholics  were  given  the  legal  right 
to  hold  estates.  Through  the  same  relaxation  of  the  penal 
codes  during  the  American  War  a  large  number  of  these  fighting 
cousins  found  their  way  into  the  army. 

Some  half-dozen  of  those  family  feudatories  appear  in  the 
Army  List  of  the  end  of  the  eighteenth  century — one  of  them 
Colonel  Richard  O'Dogherty  in  the  69th  Regiment  of  Foot, 
which  regiment  he  saved  from  capture  by  the  French  in  1795. 
A  nephew  of  this  man,  another  Richard,  got  a  commission 
about  ten  years  later  ;  but  his  name  appears  as  *  Doherty  ' — 
the  '  0'  '  and  the  '  g  '  omitted.  What 's  in  a  name  ?  A  good 
deal,  sometimes.  Richard  had  a  brother  Theobald,  who  also 
got  a  commission  in  the  40th  Regiment  after  the  rupture  of 
the  Peace  of  Amiens.  Theobald  had  a  wellnigh  unequalled 
fighting  record  :  he  fought  at  Roleia,  Vimeira,  Talavera, 
Busaco,  Badajoz,  Salamanca,  Vittoria,  Pyrenees,  Orthes,  and 
Toulouse.  He  only  attained  the  rank  of  captain  ;  and  he  was 
compelled  to  leave  the  army  years  later  because,  under  cir- 
cumstances of  very  gross  provocation  on  the  score  of  his 
religion,  he  had  challenged  a  senior  officer  to  fight  a  duel.  The 
elder  brother,  Richard,  saw  active  service  only  at  Guadaloupe 
and  Martinique  :  he  had  those  two  bars  to  his  war  medal 
against  his  younger  brother's  ten  ;  but  he  gave  up  his  faith 
as  weU  as  the  obnoxious  '  0' '  before  his  name. 


AN  EVICTION  SCENE  11 

Nevertheless,  to  Richard  I  owe  the  fact  that  X  was  a  soldier, 
and  that  I  was  posted  to  the  69th  Regiment.  I  remember 
well  a  visit  which  I  paid  to  this  old  kinsman  in  1856  or  1857.  I 
was  under  inspection.  It  was  an  anxious  moment.  He  was 
reserved,  graciously  solemn,  and  of  the  type  of  veteran  not 
uncommon  at  that  time,  but  now  rarely  to  be  seen — the  type 
of  Gough,  Napier,  Harry  Smith,  and  a  dozen  others.  He  wore 
a  high  black  silk  stock,  behind  the  stiff  shelter  of  which  he 
seemed  to  be  able  at  times  to  withdraw  a  good  deal  of  the 
lower  part  of  his  face  in  order  to  regard  me  to  greater  advant- 
age from  the  upper  portion.  ;3ut  I  anticipate  by  a  few  years, 
and  I  must  go  back  to  the  years  succeeding  the  great  famine. 

When  things  became  financially  safer,  we  boys  were  sent 
to  school  again — this  time  to  Diiblin,  where,  in  a  large  house 
in  Harcourt  Street,  once  the  residence  of  the  notorious  John 
Scott,  first  Earl  of  Clonmel,  a  Doctor  James  Quinn  had  estab- 
lished himself  as  president,  assisted  by  a  staff  of  teachers, 
nearly  all  of  whom,  like  their  chief,  attained  celebrity  as  bishops 
in  the  colonial  ecclesiastical  world.  I  often  wondered  in  after 
Ufe  how  the  balance  of  the  account  lay,  between  the  loss  of 
school  education  caused  by  those  famine  years,  and  the  gain 
of  that  other  lesson  of  Ufe — its  necessities,  its  sorrows,  its  hard 
bed-rock  facts  which  that  terrible  time  had  implanted  in  my 
mind.  In  particular  there  was  one  scene  in  the  theatre  of  that 
time  which  did  more,  I  think,  to  shape  the  course  of  thought 
than  years  of  study  could  have  done. 

One  day  I  was  taken  by  my  father  to  the  scene  of  an  eviction 
on  that  road  of  which  I  have  already  spoken  as  being  so  full 
of  the  cottages  and  cabins  of  the  people  who  were  called 
cottiers — peasants  with  three  or  four  acre  plots  of  land.  I 
have  never  forgotten  the  pity  of  that  day.  On  one  side  of  the 
road  was  a  ruined  church,  the  mounds  of  an  old  graveyard, 
and  a  few  of  those  trees  which  never  seemed  to  grow  any  larger 
but  remained  stunted  and  ragged  deformities,  nibbled  at  by 
goats  below  and  warped  by  storms  above,  and  left  to  find 
voice  for  the  wind  as  it  whistled  through  them  ;  on  the  other 
side,  and  beyond  the  old  church,  stood  some  dozen  houses 
which  were  to  be  pulled  down  on  this  day,  and  their  denizens 
evicted.  At  this  time  the  weakening  effects  of  the  famine 
were  still  painfully  evident  in  the  people,  and  the  spirit  of 


12     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

opposition  which,  m  after  years  was  to  become  so  strong  was 
not  in  being.  The  sheriff,  a  strong  force  of  pohce,  and  above 
aU  the  crowbar  brigade — a  body  composed  of  the  lowest  and 
most  debauched  ruffians — were  present. 

At  a  signal  from  the  sheriff  the  work  began.  The  miserable 
inmates  of  the  cabins  were  dragged  out  upon  the  road  ;  the 
thatched  roofs  were  torn  down  and  the  earthen  waUs  battered 
in  by  crowbars  (practice  had  made  these  scoundrels  adepts 
in  their  trade)  ;  the  screaming  women,  the  half-naked  children, 
the  paralysed  grandmother,  and  the  tottering  grandfather  were 
hauled  out.  It  was  a  sight  I  have  never  forgotten.  I  was 
twelve  years  old  at  the  time  ;  but  I  think  if  a  loaded  gun  had 
been  put  into  my  hands  I  would  have  fired  into  that  crowd  of 
villains,  as  they  plied  their  horrible  trade  by  the  ruined  church 
of  Tampul-da-voun  (the  church  of  the  east  window). 

Singularly  enough,  it  feU  out  that,  after  twenty-five  years, 
I  should  meet  at  Highclere  an  ex-colonial  governor  who  had 
fiUed  many  positions  of  trust  and  authority  in  his  day — Sir 
Arthur  Kennedy,  He  had  been  in  early  life  one  of  the  Famine 
Commissioners  in  the  County  Clare,  and  not  the  least  tragi- 
cally interesting  in  the  gloomy  Blue  Book  which  has  collected 
the  reports  of  these  officers  throughout  Ireland  are  the  reports 
sent  in  by  the  then  Captain  Arthur  Kennedy  of  his  experiences 
in  Western  Clare  during  the  famine  years. 

One  day  the  conversation  turned  upon  Ireland  and  the  Irish 
famine.  Something  was  said  which  caused  the  old  veteran's 
face  to  flush.  Turnmg  full  towards  his  host  he  said,  '  I  can 
teU  you,  my  lord,  that  there  were  days  in  that  western  county 
when  I  came  back  from  some  scene  of  eviction  so  maddened  by 
the  sights  of  hunger  and  misery  I  had  seen  in  the  day's  work 
that  I  felt  disposed  to  take  the  gun  from  behind  my  door  and 
shoot  the  first  landlord  I  met.'  '  Strong  words.  Sir  Arthur,' 
was  all  that  the  then  Colonial  Secretary  could  say.  '  Not 
stronger,  my  lord,  than  were  my  feelings  at  that  time,'  answered 
the  old  soldier. 

While  I  was  at  school  in  Dublm  the  Crimean  War  began  ; 
and  as  the  regiments  in  garrison  were  all  sent  to  the  East, 
their  departure  for  the  seat  of  war  was  an  event  of  great 
interest  to  the  schoolboys.  Daily  we  used  to  accompany  some 
regiment  of  horse  or  foot,  cheering  them    as  they  marched 


SCHOOLDAYS  ENDED         •  13 

through  the  streets.  In  one  of  these  mfantry  regiments  there 
marched  a  subaltern  officer  who  was  afterwards  destined  to 
rise  to  great  distinction,  and  with  whose  career  I  was  in  after 
life  to  have  the  honour  of  being  associated  on  many  occasions. 

In  the  Story  of  a  Soldier's  Life,  Lord  Wolseley  has  graphically 
described  the  departure  of  his  regiment,  the  90th,  from  Dublin  ; 
the  scenes  of  the  streets  ;  and  the  sympathy  of  the  men  and 
women  with  the  eight  or  nine  prisoners  who  were  under  his 
charge  as  subaltern  officer  of  the  day.  '  Many  purses  were 
handed  to  them,  and  they  had  a  real  ovation.  I  found  myself 
the  centT-e  of  a  crowd  that  regarded  me  as  a  jailer.  "  Poor 
boys  !  "  I  heard  on  every  side,  whilst  men  and  women  scowled 
upon  me.  They  (the  prisoners)  were  assumed  to  be  England's 
enemies  because  thus  guarded,  so  of  course  they  became  the 
heroes,  the  dear  friends  of  the  Dublin  rabble,'  For  my  part, 
I  have  found  this  feeling  of  sjTnpathy  with  prisoners  a  very 
general  one  tlirough  the  world,  and  I  do  not  think  that  human 
nature  has  any  reason  to  be  ashamed  of  it.  Nor  is  the  senti- 
ment of  sympathy,  even  when  it  is  misdirected,  peculiar  to 
the  people  of  Ireland.  I  remember  once  seeing  a  naval  picket 
in  Plymouth  carrying,  or  endeavouring  to  carry,  a  very 
turbulent  sailor  to  his  ship.  A  crowd  of  women  were  follo\ving 
the  cortege,  and  cries  of  '  Ah  !  don't  hurt  the  pore  sailor  !  ' 
were  frequent.  As  the  picket  passed,  I  noticed  that  the 
*  pore  sailor  '  had  got  the  petty  officer's  thumb  into  his  mouth 
and  was  vigorously  engaged  in  the  attempt  to  chew  it  off  ; 
but  the  greatly  suffering  petty  officer  had  no  pity  expressed 
for  him.  Here  undoubtedly  was  a  case  of  sympathy  so  mis- 
directed that  there  was  not  even  a  rule  of  thumb  about  it. 

The  Crimean  War  was  over  before  I  left  school.  A  short 
interval  of  aimless  expectation  followed  it.  My  father  was  not 
keen  that  his  son  should  enter  a  profession  in  which  the  dis- 
advantage of  the  absence  of  money  could  only  be  overcome 
by  the  surrender  of  one's  rehgion — for  that  at  least  was  the 
lesson  which  the  cases  of  his  relatives  in  the  army  had  taught 
him. 

In  June  1857  came  the  news  of  the  Indian  Mutiny.  I  have 
already  spoken  of  a  visit  paid  to  the  old  kinsman.  Sir  Richard 
Doherty,  and  of  '  the  inspection  '  then  undergone.  It  appears 
to  have  been  tolerably  satisfactory,  because  not  long  after- 


14     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

wards  a  letter  arrived  from  him  to  my  father  enclosing  a 
communication  from  the  Military  Secretary,  nominating  me 
to  a  direct  commission  without  purchase.  In  July  1858  I  passed 
the  qualifying  examination  at  Old  Burlington  House,  and  on 
the  17th  of  the  following  September  was  gazetted  ensign  in 
the  69th  Regiment,  the  corps  which  had  been  saved  from 
capture  by  the  French  through  the  instrumentality  of  another 
Richard  O'Doglierty  some  sixty-three  years  earlier.  My  new 
corps  was  stationed  in  Burmah,  and  its  depot  was  at  Fermoy, 
in  the  County  Cork,  some  forty  miles  at  the  other  side  of  the 
Gal  tee  Mountains.  At  that  time  there  was  no  railway  to  this 
military  station,  so  I  proceeded  thither  by  a  roundabout  journey 
on  a  long-car  which  ran  from  Kilmallock  to  it  through  a  wild 
hilly  country  dividing  the  valley  of  the  Blackwater  River 
from  the  waters  flowing  into  the  Shannon  and  the  Suir.  It 
was  a  dull  November  evening,  the  17th,  as  we  reached  Fermoy. 
I  carried  a  letter  from  Sir  Richard  Doherty  to  the  commandant 
of  the  depot  battalion  —  a  Colonel  Egerton,  who  had  once 
been  my  venerable  cousin's  adjutant.  There  is  a  certain 
aspect  of  awe  about  the  interior  of  a  barracks  when  it  is  entered 
by  a  young  officer  for  the  first  time  ;  and  the  square  of  the  old 
barracks  at  Fermoy  made  no  exhilarating-looking  picture  as 
it  appeared  to  me  in  the  gloom  of  a  damp  November  evening 
when  I  made  my  way  across  it  to  the  house  of  the  colonel 
commanding.  But  how  kind  and  bright  was  mj''  reception  at 
the  hands  of  Colonel  Egerton  and  his  wife  !  I  was  to  come 
and  lunch  with  them  the  next  day.  I  was  to  dine  at  the  mess 
that  evening  just  as  I  was.  The  colonel  took  me  himseK  to 
the  officer  commanding  my  depot,  and  then  I  went  back  to 
the  httle  hotel  to  get  ready  for  the  mess  dinner. 


JP 


CHAPTER  II 

Old  soldiers  and  young.     Orders  for  India.     A  four  months'  voyacre. 

Bunnah. 

I  HAD  had  but  little  acquaintance  with  the  world  up  to  this 
time.     Fifty  years  ago  boys  were  very  far  removed  from  the 
intercourse  with  older  persons  which  is  now  so  common  among 
them.     The  thing,  therefore,   that  struck  me  most  strongly 
was  the  kind  and  familiar  manner  with  which  I  was  treated 
from  the  first  moment  of  joining  at  Fermoy.     Nearly  all  the 
older  officers  had  seen  service  in  the  Crimean  War,  which  was 
then  only  a  recent  event.     The  majority  of  them  were  splendid 
fellows  ;    that  long  siege  had  been  a  wonderful  school  for  the 
forming  of  manly  characters.     They  had  a  type  and  manner 
of  their  own.     Their  hair  was  not  cut  short,  as  in  the  present 
day,  but  was  worn  long  over  the  ears  ;    and  they  had  large 
fuzzy  whiskers,  with  moustaches  that  went  straight  into  them. 
They  smoked  much,  and  some  of  them  drank  a  good  deal  ; 
but  they  carried  their  liquor  well,  as  it  used  to  be  said.     There 
were  the  depots  of  six  different  regiments  in  the  battalion — two 
companies  from  each  regiment  (twelve  in  all  on  parade),  with 
a  colonel,  two  majors,  an  adjutant,  and  quartermaster  specially 
attached  as  battalion  officers.     Some  of  the  captains  had  been 
promoted  from  the  ranks  for  distinguished  conduct  on  the 
field.     The  colonel,  Isaac  Moore,  had  risen  from  the  ranks. 
He  was  an  old  officer,  with  the  profile  of  an  eagle,  the  voice  of 
a  Stentor,  and  a  heart  of  great  goodness.     He  was  exceedingly 
strict  on  all  matters  of  duty,  a  splendid  drill  after  the  manner 
of  the  time,  and  he  rarely  left  the  barracks  except  to  take  the 
battaUon  out  to  the  drill  field.     His  pronunciation  of  some 
military  words  was  peculiar.     Qp  was  warned  not  to  exert 
his  voice  too  much  on  pairade,  but  he  persisted  in  giving  the 
long-drawn-out  cautionary  commands  of  the  old  Peninsular 
drill  days,  such  as,  '  The  battalion  will  change  front  by  the 
wheel  and  countermarch  of  subdivisions  round  the  centre  ' ; 


18     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

shallow  where  I  was  standing,  expecting  every  moment  to 
smash  rod,  line,  and  wheel ;  but  luck  was  on  my  side.  Nothing 
broke,  and  in  ten  minutes  or  so  my  fish  was  boring  quietly  in 
some  deeper  water  nearer  shore.  Then  I  waded  back  to  the 
bank,  and  getting  his  head  down  stream,  took  him  down  to 
where  an  eddying  backwater,  close  under  the  bank,  had 
collected  on  the  surface  of  the  water  a  lot  of  white  foam.  Into 
this  little  circular  pool  I  steered  mj^  salmon.  I  had  no  gaS, 
and  he  lay  just  beneath  the  surface.  I  could  see  that  he  was 
no  smaU  fish,  but  a  salmon  of  ten  or  eleven  pounds.  What 
was  to  be  done  ?  No  one  was  near  to  help.  I  had  a  pocket- 
knife  of  ordinary  size  with  me.  I  opened  its  larger  blade, 
got  down  to  the  lower  ledge  of  turf  close  by  the  pool,  and  as 
the  now  tired  fish  came  slowly  round  in  the  eddy  and  the 
foam,  close  against  the  bank,  I  struck  the  Uttle  knife  with 
my  right  full  into  his  shoulder,  holding  the  rod  in  my  left  hand 
bent  in  towards  the  shore.  The  fish  gave  one  great  plunge  ; 
but  the  blow  was  straight  and  sure,  and  I  found  that  my 
stroke  had  pinned  him  against  the  bank.  Then,  dropping  the 
rod  from  my  left  hand,  I  got  my  fingers  under  the  gills  and 
lifted  the  salmon  safelj^  in  to  the  shore.  He  was  a  beautiful 
fresh-run  fish.  I  got  back  to  the  mess  as  the  long  June  evening 
was  closing — wet,  tired,  but  very  proud  of  my  feat  ;  and  as 
the  depot  battaUon  had  many  good  anglers  among  its  numbers, 
I  had  to  go  through  the  scene  in  the  ante-room  with  all  the 
original  paraphernalia  of  the  performance  shown  in  action. 

There  was  an  old  captain  of  the  95th  Regiment  in  the 
battalion  who  had  his  quarters  on  the  opposite  side  of  the 
passage  where  I  Uved — Captain  Robert  Weild — *  Old  Bob 
Weild,'  as  he  was  popularly  called  amongst  us  youngsters. 
He  was  a  very  quaint  specimen  of  a  soldier  now  quite  extinct. 
He  drank  a  good  deal,  and  smoked  pipes  of  many  kinds  and 
colours.  He  spoke  the  broadest  Lowland  Scotch.  He  took 
a  fancy  to  me,  and  would  often  come  into  my  room  with  his 
long  cherry-stick  pipe  and  sit  smoking  at  the  fire  and  telling 
me  of  his  early  life  and  former  service.  He  was  a  native  of 
the  town  of  Wigtown,  where  his  father  had  been  the  principal 
baker,  and  young  Bob's  business  had  been  to  deliver  the 
bread  through  the  town.  He  preferred  to  try  his  fortune  as 
a  soldier,  and  enlisted  in  the  95th  Regiment.     He  went  to  the 


SAILING  FOR  INDIA  19 

Crimea  as  a  colour-sergeant,  was  at  Abna  and  Inkermann,  and 
did  his  full  share  of  trench  service.  One  day  a  round-shot 
hopped  over  the  parapet  and  struck  Colour-Sergeant  Weild 
in  the  chest.  Fortunately  a  wave  of  wind  which  came  a  little 
in  front  of  the  ball  had  turned  the  man  shghtly  on  one  side, 
so  that  the  mass  of  iron  only  carried  away  two  or  three  ribs, 
laying  bare  the  heart  below  them.  To  all  appearances  he 
was  killed  ;  but  there  was  a  spark  of  life  still  left  m  him  :  the 
heart  had  not  been  actually  touched.  *  As  they  were  carrying 
me  back  through  the  trenches/  he  used  to  say,  '  we  met  a 
surgeon  who  had  a  well-filled  box  of  medical  comforts,  and 
the  first  thing  this  good  fellow  did  was  to  empty  a  pint  of  strong 
brandy  down  my  throat  ;  that  kept  the  heart  going  and  saved 
my  life.'  It  must  be  said  that  old  Bob  never  forgot  the  hquid 
to  which  he  owed  his  salvation.  Sometimes  he  would  stay 
late  in  the  little  club  at  the  foot  of  the  barracks  hill ;  and  as 
I  would  be  crossing  the  square  to  the  mess,  I  would  encounter 
mj''  old  friend  making  the  best  of  his  way  from  the  gate  to  his 
quarters,  walking  straight  to  the  front,  but  gazing  at  the 
ground  with  a  fixed  stare  and  an  expression  in  his  e3'e  that  told 
me  it  would  not  be  safe  to  speak  a  single  word  to  him.  He 
had  taken  his  line  from  the  gate,  and  he  was  steering  for  his 
door  upon  a  mental  compass  bearing  so  fine  that  the  smallest 
whisper  might  have  deranged  it.  On  other  occasions  we 
passed  each  other  like  ships  in  the  night.  Orders  for  India 
came  m  the  early  summer  of  1860,  and  we  went  our  several 
wa3'3 — old  Weild  to  India,  I  to  Burmah.  Six  months  later  I 
heard  of  his  death  in  Central  India. 

I  was  very  active  in  those  days.  A  month  before  we  started 
for  the  East  there  were  foot  races  in  Limerick,  where  I  won 
the  two  hundred  and  fifty  yards  hurdle  race  against  the  south 
of  Ireland  garrison. 

Our  69th  draft — three  ofl&cers  and  one  hundred'  and  twenty 
men — embarked  at  Queenstown  in  the  ship  Coldstream  for 
Madras  in  July  1860.  There  were  also  in  this  Uttle  vessel  of 
eight  hundred  tons  sixty  men  of  the  Royal  Irish  Regiment 
and  three  ofiicers.  After  a  delay  of  three  days  in  Queenstown 
Harbour,  for  laying  in  provision  for  a  long  voyage,  we  were 
towed  out  beyond  the  mouth  of  the  harbour  and  cast  off.  It 
blew  a  btiff  gale  that  night,  and  we  kept  plunging  into  a  heavy 


20     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

head  sea,  for  land  was  on  the  lea  and  there  was  no  sea  room. 
It  was  the  11th  of  July,  a  Wednesday  ;  I  remember  the  day 
of  the  week  because  from  the  midday  of  that  Wednesday  to 
the  evenmg  of  the  foUowmg  Sunday  no  food  passed  my  lips. 
I  was  then  nearly  dead  of  starvation.  For  one  hundred 
and  twenty-four  days  we  continued  to  crawl  over  the  ocean, 
and  in  those  four  months  saw  but  two  specks  of  land — 
Madeira,  and  St.  Paul's  Island  in  the  Southern  Indian 
Ocean.  We  lay  becalmed  in  the  vicinity  of  the  equator 
for  three  weeks.  The  drinking  water  was  horrible  —  the 
colour  of  weak  tea  and  with  a  taste  that  was  nauseating.  It 
had  first  rotted  in  the  barrels,  then  fermented,  and  after  it 
had  gone  through  that  cleansing  process  it  was  declared  to 
be  wholesome.  Bad  as  it  was,  the  men  became  mutinous 
because  they  could  not  get  enough  of  it  to  satisfy  their  thirst 
when  we  were  lying  becalmed  in  the  tropics.  After  some 
forty  days  we  caught  the  south-east  trade  winds  and  shaped  a 
course  towards  the  coast  of  South  America  ;  then  by  Tristan 
da  Cunha,  which  was  hidden  in  dense  masses  of  clouds  ;  and 
round  the  Cape  of  Good  Hope,  but  some  four  hundred  miles 
to  the  south  of  it.  Here,  towards  the  end  of  September,  we 
entered  upon  a  vast  ocean  of  gigantic  roUers,  a  grey  limitless 
waste  of  waters  that  came  surging  after  us  in  stupendous  billows 
as  though  they  would  overwhelm  the  little  speck  of  ship  that 
carried  us.  Vast  flocks  of  sea-birds  circled  high  above  our 
masts. 

The  captain  was  a  most  excellent  man  ;  the  crew  of  twenty- 
nine  hands  were  strong  and  fearless  fellows.  It  was  often  a 
splendid  sight  to  see  them  aloft,  double  reefing  topsails  on  a 
night  of  storm  and  lightning  in  the  Southern  Indian  Ocean — 
black  darkness  everywhere,  then  a  flash  lighting  up  the  deck, 
masts,  and  spars,  and  showmg  the  black  specks  aloft  in  the 
rocking  rigging,  clewing  in  the  flapping  canvas  to  the  topsail 
yards. 

We  kept  night-watch  like  the  crew,  and  wretched  work  it 
was  ;  the  ship  leaked  badly  from  the  beginning,  but  it  was 
only  when  the  stormy  southern  latitudes  were  reached  that 
the  leakage  became  really  serious.  The  ship  was  then  making 
several  inches  of  water  every  hour.  We  had  one  pump  near 
the  mainmast  on  the  quarter-deck  ;    and  it  used  to  take  the 


A  DANGEROUS  CARGO  21 

men  of  the  watch,  with  the  pump  handles  fully  manned,  a 
full  hour's  hard  work  before  the  water  was  got  out  of  the  vessel. 
Three  times  in  the  night  this  work  went  on.  The  soldiers 
hated  it  so  much  that  it  was  no  easy  matter  to  get  them  up 
from  the  lower  deck  out  of  their  hammocks  to  the  wet  and 
slippery  quarter-deck. 

With  the  sergeant  of  the  watch  one  had  to  creep  along  the 
odour-reeking  deck  under  the  hammocks,  shouting,  and  often 
unslinging  the  hammock  lines  before  the  men  would  turn  out. 
Then,  when  the  handles  were  manned,  they  would  vent  their 
ill-humour  upon  the  wretched  pump  by  working  it  lil^e  demons 
up  and  down — until  the  captain,  hearing  the  banging,  would 
rush  out  from  his  cabin  behind  the  little  '  cuddy '  vociferating 
to  the  men  that  if  they  broke  the  pumps  the  ship  would  smk 
in  thirty  hours.  This  miserable  work  went  on  until  the  ship's 
course  was  turned  northwards  from  the  Uttle  island  of  St. 
Paul's,  and  as  smoother  latitudes  were  gained  the  leakage 
lessened.  We  did  not  know  then,  but  it  was  afterwards  dis- 
covered, what  was  the  cause  of  the  leakage.  The  ship  was 
carrying  a  very  dangerous  cargo,  and  one  that  should  have 
made  it  impossible  for  her  owners  to  obtain  a  commission 
for  the  carriage  of  troops — railroad  iron.  She  had  six  hundred 
tons  of  iron  rails  down  below  the  other  ordinary  cargo. 
It  was  this  dead  soUd  weight  that  had  caused  her  timbers 
to  open  in  the  gale  and  heavy  seas  into  which  we  plunged 
the  night  after  leaving  Ireland.  Fortunately  the  rent  was 
just  at  or  above  the  water-line,  so  when  the  sea  was  fairly 
smooth  the  intake  of  water  was  small ;  but  whenever  bad 
weather  came,  and  the  vessel's  bows  went  down  mto  the  waves, 
the  water  came  in  in  quantities,  and  for  six  hours  in  the  twenty- 
four  the  men  were  at  the  pumps.  There  was  no  Plimsoll  in 
those  days  :  the  shipowners  could  do  as  they  pleased  ;  and  a 
five-pound  note  placed  in  the  palm  of  an  inspector  between 
decks  by  the  agent  from  the  office  in  Leadenhall  Street  could 
lighten  the  duties  of  inspection  and  remove  many  doubts  and 
difficulties. 

My  kit  was  a  small  one,  but  I  had  managed  to  include  in  it 
one  box  of  books,  and  I  was  able  to  borrow  other  works  from 
brother  officers  on  board.  I  read  a  great  deal  in  the  long 
weary  months,  sailing  the  great  circle  to  India. 


22     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

In  a  little  book  wliich  I  wrote  more  than  forty  years  ago, 
subsequent  to  that  voyage,  I  was  comparmg  the  sailing  ship 
of  the  old  bygone  times  with  the  steamers  of  to-day,  and  I 
wrote  that  it  was  then  '  the  great  circle,  but  now  it  was  the 
short  cut/  A  London  literar}-  review,  with  the  well-known 
infallibility  of  the  editorial  armchair,  which  embraces  every- 
thing m  knowledge  from  a  needle  to  an  anchor,  pointed  out 
that  I  was  in  error,  inasmuch  as  '  the  great  circle  '  and  '  the 
short  cut '  were  sjiionymous  expressions.  But  he  forgot  that 
we  were  dealing  with  sailing  ships,  and  that  the  trade  wind 
was  the  chief  factor  concerned  in  the  question.  From  England 
to  India  by  the  short  cut  via  the  Cape  is  about  ten  thousand 
miles  ;  but  no  sailing  ship  attempting  that  passage  in  the 
teeth  of  the  trade  wind  could  get  to  its  destination  under  a 
term  of  years.  The  great  circle,  which  the  sailing  vessels 
still  follow  en  route  to  India — makmg  a  fair  wind  of  the  south- 
east trade  by  running  towards  the  coast  of  South  America 
from  the  Line  and  thence,  before  the  powerful  western  winds, 
by  Tristan  da  Cunha  to  St.  Paul's  and  Amsterdam  Islands, 
where  they  turn  north  for  India — is  some  eight  or  nine  thousand 
miles  longer  in  distance,  although  it  saves  many  months  in 
time. 

Now  and  again  on  that  long  voyage  we  had  some  incidents 
that  gave  us,  at  least,  a  subject  for  conversation  at  the  little 
'  cuddy  '  table  where  we  gathered  for  meals.  One  morning, 
in  the  earlj)-  watch,  strange  sounds  were  heard  as  of  some  one 
singing  under  the  bottom  of  the  ship.  No  one  could  locate 
the  sound.  It  was  fitful  and  indistinct,  hilarious  and  despondent 
by  turns.  Men  looked  at  each  other.  At  last  the  morning 
roU  was  called,  and  it  was  found  that  there  was  a  man  missing. 
AU  the  decks  were  searched,  the  cook's  galley,  the  long-boat, 
where  the  six  or  eight  sheep  and  the  dozen  pigs  were,  and  the 
forecastle  wherein  the  crew  had  their  bunks — ^no  man  could 
be  found  ;  but  stiU  the  mj^sterious  sounds  rose  at  intervals. 
At  length  it  was  discovered  that  a  person  looking  down  the 
square  hole  through  which  the  long  chain  cable  was  passed 
into  its  box  below,  could  hear  the  strange  noise  with  greater 
distinctness  than  elsewhere  in  the  ship.  This  discovery  soon 
solved  the  mystery  :  the  missing  man  was  far  down  in  the 
chain  locker.      Some  one  descended  the  shaft.      A  very  fat 


INDIA  SIGHTED  23 

soldier  was  found  near  the  bottom  of  the  aperture,  stretched 
upon  some  cargo  in  the  hold.  Fresh  discoveries  followed. 
The  captain  and  the  mate  descended.  From  where  the  fat 
man  was  found  a  track  led  over  piles  of  general  cargo  to  a  bulk- 
head, which  was  directly  under  the  stem  part  of  the  ship. 
This  bulkhead  had  had  a  hole  cut  through  it  into  the  spirit- 
room.  This  hole  passed  through,  a  still  stranger  sight  was 
revealed  :  many  cases  of  gin  and  other  strong  spirits,  which 
had  been  destined  for  the  consumption  of  Asiatic  committees 
in  general,  were  found  opened  and  rifled  ;  a  comfortable  straw- 
lined  tap-room  was  next  found  among  the  cases,  and  many 
small  candle  ends,  some  of  which,  in  Ueu  of  candlesticks,  had 
been  stuck  on  to  the  ship's  side,  the  timbers  of  which  the  lighted 
candles  had  in  many  places  charred.  Here  had  been  the  chosen 
meeting-place  of  a  select  few  among  the  crew  and  soldiers. 
Night  after  night  those  faithful  fellows  had  descended  the  chain 
locker  and  sought  the  seclusion  of  this  spirituous  paradise.  At 
last,  in  a  happy  moment  for  the  remainder  of  the  uninitiated, 
the  fat  soldier  was  bidden  to  the  feast.  He  had  descended 
easily  ;  but  when  the  hour  came  for  reascending  to  the  cold 
upper  world,  either  his  size  or  the  quantity  of  liquor  he  had 
swallowed  prevented  the  ascension.  His  companions  could 
not  drag  him  up  the  locker,  and  he  had  to  be  left  at  its  base  : 
elation  or  terror  did  the  rest.  The  fatness  of  this  particular 
male  siren  had  probably  saved  the  good  ship  Coldstream  from 
a  fate  worse  than  any  shipwreck  ;  and  the  hardest  part  of  the 
thing  was  that  he  was  the  sole  man  of  the  wrong-doers  whom 
it  was  possible  to  punish.  Instead  of  being  the  recipient  of 
many  Humane  Society's  medals  for  savmg  the  lives  of  about 
two  hundred  and  fifty  human  beings,  he  spent  the  greater 
portion  of  the  remainder  of  the  voyage  in  leg-irons. 

At  daybreak  on  2nd  November  land  was  in  sight.  We  had 
been  heading  for  it  a  day  or  two  before,  and  there  it  was  at  last 
— a  low  coast  beaten  by  a  white  surf,  fringes  of  palm-trees, 
some  white  houses,  and  a  range  of  hills  beyond  the  Coromandel 
coast.  Some  forty  miles  north  of  Madras  we  anchored  in  the 
open  roadstead  of  that  town  about  noon.  A  high  surf  was 
running,  and  only  a  naked  Catamaran  man  on  his  three  logs 
lashed  together  could  come  out  to  us  with  letters  and  orders 
carried  in  his  skull  cap  of  oiled  wicker  work.     After  three  or 


24     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

four  days'  rolling  and  pitching  at  anchor  we  were  allowed  to 
land,  and  when  evening  came  we  all  marched  to  a  place  called 
Poonamallee,  about  twelve  miles  west  of  Madras.  Every- 
thing was  new  and  strange  to  us — the  people,  the  trees,  the  fire- 
flies in  the  bamboo  hedges,  the  cicadas  in  the  feathery  palm- 
trees,  the  bull-frogs  in  the  grassy  fields,  the  endless  multi- 
plication of  life  human  and  animal  everywhere  to  be  seen, 
heard,  or  felt.  Poonamallee  was  a  delightful  old  cantonment, 
built  in  the  days  of  Clive  or  earlier — an  old  semicircular  mess- 
house  with  mango-trees  surrounding  it,  and  a  broad  verandah 
raised  two  feet  above  the  ground,  supported  along  its  outer 
edge  by  pillars  of  snow-white  '  chunam  ' ;  three  hundred  yards 
away  a  Moorish  fort  with  a  broad  ditch  around  it  full  of  bull- 
frogs; and  beyond  it  the  village  or  town  of  Poonamallee,  a  very 
extraordinary  assemblage  of  Hindoo  temples  and  houses,  the 
former  representing,  with  an  effrontery  not  to  be  abashed, 
the  lower  and  most  disreputable  fines  of  the  Hindoo  worship. 

This  old  depot  station  was  commanded  by  one  of  the  most 
mteresting  veterans  it  was  ever  my  good  fortune  to  meet  in 
life  —  Colonel  Impett,  formerly  of  the  71st  Foot,  in  which 
regiment  he  had  fought  at  Waterloo.  He  was  now  in  his 
sixtieth  year,  taU  and  spare,  the  most  lovable  old  soldier  who 
ever  drew  to  him  the  heart  of  man  or  woman.  What  days  I 
had  fistening  to  this  man  !  After  Waterloo  he  had  marched 
to  Paris,  when  he  was  not  yet  fifteen ;  then  later  he  went  to 
Canada.  He  had  been  at  Fermoy  in  the  'twenties,  and  now 
for  thirty  years  his  service  had  been  wholly  in  India.  Before 
I  was  a  week  at  Poonamallee  he  had  taken  me  out  to  shoot 
snipe  with  him  in  the  paddy  fields,  five  miles  from  the  station. 
In  the  gharry  going  to  and  coming  from  the  ground,  and  in 
drives  to  and  from  Madras,  he  often  used  to  speak  about  his 
early  experiences — particularly  of  the  day  at  Waterloo.  He 
was  given  a  commission  at  either  Eton  or  Harrow,  and  had 
been  hurried  out  to  Belgium  in  the  spring  of  1815  to  join  his 
regiment  there  cantoned — part  of  that  vast  force  of  about  a 
million  men  which  those  brave  feUows,  the  kings  and  emperors 
of  Europe,  had  gathered  round  the  French  frontiers  to  fight 
the  single  soldier  whose  army  two  months  earUer  had  numbered 
a  bare  five  hundred  all  told.  He  described  the  repeated  charges 
of  the  French  cavalry  upon  his  regiment  in  square  on  the  windy 


ON  TO  BURMAH  25 

slope  of  the  ridge  behind  the  hollow  road  that  ran  from  La 
Haye  Sainte.  When  night  fell  the  wearied  men,  already 
half  asleep,  lay  down  where  they  stood.  Impett  caught  a 
black  horse  which  passed  by  without  a  rider  ;  he  tied  the 
rein  to  his  wrist,  and  then  sank  into  a  deep  sleep.  When 
he  awoke  in  the  early  June  dawn,  the  horse  was  gone.  *  It 
was  a  lump  and  a  line  all  day,'  he  said  :  *  a  lump  to  resist  the 
cavalry,  a  line  to  avoid  the  havoc  wrought  by  the  round-shot.' 
That  was  certainly  a  baptism  of  fire  for  a  boy  of  fourteen. 

Many  incidents  of  lesser  interest  in  his  Hfe  he  used  to  speak 
about  in  those  httle  shooting  excursions — of  days  camped  on 
an  island  in  Georgian  Bay,  Lake  Huron,  fishing  and  deer 
hunting  ;  of  long  walks  in  the  mountains  I  had  lately  left  near 
Fermoy.  One  day,  in  a  glen  somewhere  in  those  hills,  he  and 
his  companion,  Captain  Markham,  a  noted  shot,  came  upon 
a  still  in  full  work.  No  information  was  given  to  the  excise 
ofiicers  in  the  town,  and  a  couple  of  weeks  later  Markham  and 
Impett  found  a  small  keg  of  poteen  whisky  laid  outside  the 
door  of  their  rooms  in  the  old  barracks. 

After  two  or  three  months  in  Poonamallee  the  draft  moved 
on  to  Burmah  by  steamer  from  Madras.  We  touched  at  several 
ports  on  the  east  side  of  the  Bay  of  Bengal.  Boats  carrying 
fruits  and  lunka  cheroots  surrounded  the  vessel  at  one  of  these 
places.  After  a  time  many  men  were  found  to  be  drunk  on 
board  ;  this  was  strange,  because  care  had  been  taken  to 
prevent  the  bringing  of  spirits  on  board.  But  the  attack 
usually  beats  the  defence.  We  found  on  close  examination 
that  the  oranges  in  many  cases  had  a  small  round  hole  drilled 
in  the  rind,  through  which  the  juice  of  the  fruits  had  been 
extracted  and  the  vacuum  filled  in  with  arrack,  the  rind  plug 
being  again  inserted. 

In  due  time  we  reached  Rangoon,  and  shortly  afterwards  we 
embarked  in  Burmese  boats  for  the  Pegu  River,  and  marched 
thence  across  the  twenty  miles  of  low-lying  jungle  and  high, 
grass-covered  waste  which  divided  the  Pegu  River  from  the 
larger  Sittang. 

A  very  perfect  pagoda,  one  of  the  loftiest  and  most  grace- 
fully tapering  structures  of  the  kind  in  Burmah,  Hfts  its  '  thay  ' 
of  many  bells- three  hundred  feet  and  more  above  this  wilderness 
of  grass.     Our  camp  was  at  the  base  of  this  beautiful  object. 


26     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

now  the  sole  survivor  of  everything  that  had  made  Pegu  one 
of  the  greatest  cities  of  the  East  in  the  early  days  of  Portuguese 
commercial  enterprise.  It  was  not  easy  to  look  up  at  this 
glittering  musical  spire  in  the  hot  glare  of  daylight ;  but  when 
evening  was  closing  over  the  landscape,  which  everywhere 
showed  evidences  of  ruin  and  retrogression,  the  eyes  were 
instinctively  drawn  upwards  to  this  triple  tiaraed  crown  of 
tinkling  bells,  whose  lark-like  music  feU  soft  as  dew  through 
the  cooling  air.  Gone  was  everything  else  of  that  once  proud 
kingdom  of  Pegu  ;  this,  the  work  of  some  old  Buddhist  saint 
or  hero,  was  left  alone  with  its  own  music  in  the  wilderness. 

We  marched  at  night  across  the  twenty  miles  of  grass  and 
jungle,  and  at  a  spot  called  Khyatsoo,  on  the  Sittang,  found  a 
flotilla  of  boats  ready  to  embark  us  for  a  long  journey  of  twenty 
days  up  that  river.  The  wide  river  was  here  still  subject  to 
the  tide,  which  at  times  forms  a  '  bore '  of  a  very  dangerous 
character,  A  few  years  earUer  the  entire  half-battahon  of  a 
native  infantry  regiment,  with  all  its  o£&cers,  baggage,  etc., 
had  been  swamped  near  this  place  by  the  tidal  wave — the 
'  CaUgima  Yeh,'  the  bad  water  of  the  Burmese.  We  soon 
passed  the  wide,  tidal  part  of  the  river,  and  entered  the  narrower 
stream,  which  was  still  high  and  turbid  after  the  monsoon  rains. 
At  first  the  strangeness  of  the  scene,  and  above  all  the  boats 
and  boatmen,  gave  occupation  to  the  mind.  The  boats  were 
of  a  shape  and  structure  unlike  any  other  craft  in  the  world  : 
about  twelve  feet  of  the  stern  end  of  the  boat  was  thatched 
with  strong  reeds,  the  remainder  of  the  boat  was  open,  the 
stem  sloped  high  above  the  water,  and  at  its  extreme  end 
a  high  wooden  chair  gave  the  steersman  a  lofty  seat,  from  which 
he  was  able  to  move  a  big  spoon-shaped  oar,  by  a  simple  turn 
of  his  hand,  to  the  right  or  left.  He  thus  looked  over  the 
thatched  cabin  and  weU  beyond  the  bows  and  the  bamboo 
platform  from  which  the  crew  worked  the  boat.  The  crew  of 
four  men  took  it  in  turns  to  propel  the  boat  with  long  poles, 
which  they  worked  by  going  forward  to  the  bow,  placing  the 
pole  against  the  hollow  of  the  shoulder,  and  in  this  bending 
position  walliing  down  the  narrow  bamboo  platform  to  the 
thatched  cabin  ;  then,  releasing  the  poles  from  the  bottom, 
they  went  back  again  to  the  bow  to  repeat  the  toilsome  journey. 
The  current,  swollen  by  the  rains,  ran  strong,  and  during  quite 


UP  THE  SITTANG  RIVER  27 

half  of  the  clay  the  boat  was  brushing  against  the  tall  reeds  that 
covered  the  banks,  sometimes  on  one  side  of  the  river,  some- 
times on  the  other.  One  would  have  thought  that  after  their 
long  work  at  this  laborious  poling,  the  men  would  have  been 
glad  to  lie  down  to  rest  when  we  tied  up  at  night  against  the 
bank  ;  but  that  they  seldom  or  never  did.  When  the  rice 
was  boiled  and  eaten  play  of  some  sort  began,  and  often  in  the 
grey  morning  hght  I  have  looked  out  from  under  the  thatched 
roof  of  the  boat  and  seen  the  crew  still  hard  at  work  at  cards, 
or  stones,  or  some  queer  game  of  chequers.  In  the  damp  fog 
which  then  hung  over  shore  and  river,  they  would  get  up  from 
the  little  fire  by  which  they  had  squatted  all  night,  unfasten 
their  '  loongies,'  and  take  a  plunge  in  the  yellow  waters  of  the 
river,  diving  about  like  ducks,  and  coming  up  wet  and  glisten- 
ing to  resume  the  long  bamboo  poles  for  the  day. 

Our  average  rate  of  progress  was  about  ten  mUes  a  day.  Now 
and  again  the  boat  would  tie  up  a  little  earUer  than  usual,  or 
the  pace  would  be  arranged  so  as  to  arrive  at  some  village 
where  a  '  pooay  '  or  play  was  going  on  in  celebration  of  a  local 
marriage  or  funeral. 

At  some  of  the  larger  villages  a  pecuhar  smeU  would  manifest 
itself  when  the  cooking  hour  arrived  :  this  was  caused  by  the 
preparation  or  consumption  of  the  celebrated  Burmese  deUcacy 
known  as  '  Napee."  As  the  river  was  now  falling  quickly,  these 
napee  nights  became  more  frequent,  because  the  time  had 
come  to  unearth  the  deposits  of  fish,  buried  in  the  sand- 
banks of  the  river  before  the  torrential  rains  of  the  monsoon 
began  to  fill  its  wide  bed.  A  deep  pit  is  dug  in  the  sand 
and  filled  with  fish  of  many  kinds  ;  the  sand  is  pressed  down 
upon  the  mass  of  fish  ;  a  long  pole  is  driven  into  the  bar  to 
mark  the  spot.  The  river  rises,  and  water  overflows  the 
cache  for  six  months  ;  then,  when  the  waters  subside, 
the  cache  is  dug  up,  a  terribly  pungent  efiiuvium  is  evolved 
from  the  opened  pit,  and  the  napee  is  carried  off  by  the  villagers 
to  be  eaten  as  a  special  delicacy  during  the  next  twelve  months. 
The  traveller  is  conscious  of  a  napee  night  while  he  is  yet  at 
a  considerable  distance  from  the  place  of  entertainment.  But, 
after  aU,  has  not  man,  even  in  his  most  civilised  state,  some 
bonne-bouche  of  this  kind — a  venerable  Stilton,  a  mite-riddled 
Roquefort,  a  semi-liquefied  Camembert  ? 


28     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :  AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

After  three  long  weeks  of  this  slow  travel  our  boats  reached 
the  bank  of  the  river  at  the  top  of  which  stood  Tonghoo.  We 
had  been  twenty-one  days  doing  these  two  hundred  miles  ;  but 
at  the  end  of  these  three  weeks  one  had  gained  a  knowledge 
of  Burmese  life,  labours,  and  manners  which  was  an  asset  of 
much  use  to  one  in  many  ways. 

At  this  station  of  Tonghoo  I  foimd  my  regiment,  the  69th. 
They  had  been  here  more  than  three  years — one  might  say 
buried  in  the  Burman  forest,  for  communication  was  at  that 
time  so  tedious  that  a  letter  took  two  and  a  half  months  to 
come  from  London,  and  a  voyage  by  the  long  sea  route  was, 
as  we  have  just  seen,  a  matter  ot  about  six  months'  actual 
travel. 

Under  conditions  of  life  such  as  these,  rust  of  mind  and 
body  must  be  the  prevailing  features  of  European  life.  The 
seasons,  too,  helped  the  distance  and  environment.  Tonghoo 
led  to  no  place  ;  it  was  the  end  of  the  track  :  beyond  and  on 
every  side  was  forest.  This  month  of  February  was  the  middle 
of  the  dry  season.  In  three  months  the  clouds  would  sweep 
up  over  the  tree-tops  from  the  sea,  and  in  terrific  thunder  and 
lightning  the  ball  of  the  monsoon  would  open.  Then  for 
nearly  six  months  it  would  not  be  possible  to  stir  beyond  the 
roads  of  the  cantonment.  All  the  forest  would  be  a  swamp  ; 
the  river,  which  was  now  thirty  feet  down  in  its  channel, 
would  be  running  level  with  the  tops  of  the  banks  ;  the  bull- 
frogs would  croak  outside  every  compound  ;  and  all  the  creep- 
ing things  that  love  heat  and  damp — scorpions,  centipedes, 
huge  spiders,  strange  lizards,  beetles,  cobras,  and  pythons — 
would  hold  general  carnival. 

With  these  climatic  conditions  in  view,  it  became  necessary 
to  do  something  in  the  way  of  exploring  the  surrounding 
country  in  the  next  couple  of  months,  while  the  forest  tracks 
could  still  be  travelled  by  a  pony.  Once  the  monsoon  began, 
only  the  elephant  could  manage  to  plough  through  the  deep 
black  mud.  Daily  rides  were  therefore  taken  in  many  directions. 
Tonghoo,  like  all  Burmah,  has  had  better  days.  A  huge 
waUed  city  had  been  once  here  ;  the  rectangular  wall,  measuring 
one  mile  on  each  face,  alone  remained  with  its  enormous 
ditch,  now  a  jungle-grown  swamp.  Inside  this  great  brick 
waU,  which  was  thirty  feet  thick,  a  little  wicker  town  of  bamboo 


LIFE  IN  THE  FOREST  29 

and  rushes  occupied  about  a  twelfth  part  of  the  origmal  city 
site.  The  pagoda  again  remained  the  sole  remnant  of  the  old 
glory,  and  a  beautiful  pagoda  it  was,  though  not  equal  to  its 
Pegu  rival.  Beyond  this  great  city  wall  spread  mingled  spaces 
of  low  jungle  and  paddy  fields,  all  of  which  were  now  quite 
dry.  As  one  galloped  along  the  sandy  jungle  tracks  there 
would  open  out  at  sudden  intervals  some  Uttle  village  scene — 
a  dozen  bamboo  huts  ;  a  small  pagoda  with  its  ghstening 
spire  ;  a  teak-wood  rest-house  for  travellers  ;  a  little  Poongee 
monastery,  the  cocoa  palms  and  mango-trees  about  it,  and  its 
shrine  piled  with  httle  figures  of  Buddha,  cross-legged  and  long- 
armed,  with  long  pendent  ears,  and  big  dreamy  eyes  looking 
out  upon  a  big  dreamy  world. 

It  would  be  impossible  not  to  like  the  Burmese  people — 
good-natured,  nice-mannered,  pleasant  people.  They  never 
scowled  at  one  nor  shouted  some  unknown  word  of  abuse  ; 
they  were  glad  to  render  any  little  service  of  the  wayside 
without  thought  of  *  backsheesh  '  ;  everj^body  smoked  big 
cheroots  made  up  in  a  large  green  leaf;  everybody  seemed  happy. 

But  the  life  of  the  forest  was  the  one  I  was  most  anxious  to 
see  ;  and  late  in  May  I  managed,  in  company  with  a  brother 
officer,  to  induce  the  official  in  charge  of  the  Forest  Department 
to  lend  us  three  elephants  (their  purchase  was  quite  beyond 
the  reach  of  our  subaltern  purses),  and  loading  these  animals 
with  our  supplies,  we  sent  them  to  a  place  some  sixty  miles 
south,  there  to  await  our  arrival  by  boat.  This  time  the 
craft  selected  was  a  long  '  dug-out '  canoe  of  teak  wood.  With 
ten  or  a  dozen  men  paddling,  we  travelled  by  the  hght  of  a 
full  moon,  and  went  gaily  down-stream,  expecting  to  reach  our 
landing-place  by  dayhght,  and  to  find  the  elephants  awaiting 
us  with  our  supphes,  and  breakfast  ready.  But  it  was  noon 
before  our  destination  was  reached  :  there  were  no  elephants, 
no  food,  no  anything.  We  sat  all  day  in  a  Burman  bamboo 
hut,  expecting  that  every  hour  would  bring  us  refreshment. 
Evening  came,  still  no  food.  Next  day  it  was  the  same  ;  then 
hunger  began  to  assert  itself,  for  rice  and  napee  were  not 
encouraging,  so  my  companion,  who  spoke  a  Uttle  Burmese, 
essayed  to  get  a  fowl  in  the  village  ;  but  the  people  were  aU 
good  Buddhists,  and  no  one  would  sell  us  a  fowl,  much  less 
kill  one.     The  day  wore  on,  and  we  were  becoming  ravenous. 


30     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

My  friend  sallied  out  again  with  his  gun.  There  was  an  old  cock 
on  the  outskirts  of  the  town,  and  this  antiquated  bird  he  was 
allowed  to  shoot.  The  woman  of  the  house  where  we  had 
taken  up  our  abode  plucked  the  bird  in  some  form,  and  boiled 
it  in  an  earthen  vessel.  It  was  then  served  up  half  hot,  but 
very  tough.  I  tried  it,  but  had  to  forbear  at  the  third  bit ; 
my  companion,  with  a  braver  digestion,  performed  an  unhappy 
despatch  upon  his  victim,  while  I  looked  on.  Just  as  the 
melancholy  meal  ended,  I  heard  what  seemed  to  be  the  solemn 
sound  of  the  elephant  beU  in  the  neighbouring  forest.  Yes, 
it  was  our  belated  beasts  coming  slowly  into  harbour  with  all 
our  good  things  on  board.  That  evening  we  went  on  about 
twelve  miles  into  the  forest  to  a  place  called  Banloung,  and 
camped  there  in  absolute  freedom — neither  house  nor  village 
was  near.  Some  previous  hunting  party  had  put  up  a  rude 
shelter  of  bamboos.  A  lake  close  by  had  water  ;  round  the 
lake  there  were  large  spaces  free  of  forest.  We  began  to  beat 
for  big  game  next  morning.  It  was  a  hunter's  paradise  :  bits 
of  high  grass  almost  level  with  the  shoulders  of  the  elephants 
alternated  with  stretches  of  splendid  forest ;  there  was  low 
jungle,  high  jungle,  and  no  jungle.  To  these  varied  covers 
aU  sorts  of  animals  had  come — sambhur,  bison,  themming,  and 
jumping  deer.  It  was  often  like  rabbit  shooting  in  bracken, 
only  the  rabbits  were  sometimes  sixteen  hands  high,  and  the 
bracken  six  feet.  The  themming  were  in  grand  herds  in  the 
open  spaces,  the  old  stags  with  heavy  brow  antlers  always 
keeping  on  the  outskirts  of  the  herd.  We  saw  the  tracks  of 
many  tigers,  but  the  bodies  of  none — the  cover  was  too  dense. 
The  monsoon  broke  while  we  were  yet  in  the  forest,  and 
when  we  moved  back  the  elephants  had  to  swim  across  a 
dozen  nullahs,  which  had  been  dry  as  dust  a  fortnight  earlier. 

The  monsoon  ran  its  dreary  course  during  the  next  few 
months.  The  rain  pattered  in  big  straight  drops  all  night 
long  upon  the  broad  leaves  of  toddy  palm  and  plantain,  and 
the  whole  land  was  streaming  and  steaming  with  water. 
Everybody  went  to  mess  with  lanterns  carried  in  front, 
for  snakes  were  very  numerous,  and  they  had  a  disagreeable 
habit  of  gettmg  up  from  the  wet  lower  ground  on  to  the  little 
raised  tracks  of  brickwork  which  led  from  the  bungalows  to 
the  mess-house. 


DOWN  THE  SITTANG  31 

Among  the  senior  officers  in  the  station  there  were  some 
strange  and  interesting  survivals  of  an  earlier  generation. 
At  times,  when  the  Madras  troops  paraded  with  our  regiment, 
one  occasionally  heard  strange  words  of  command  given  to 
the  brigade,  such  as,  '  The  brigade  will  prime  and  load/  All 
the  drill  formations  were  those  which  old  Davy  Dundas  had 
designed  in  the  days  before  the  Peninsular  War  ;  and  although 
the  flint-lock  musket  had  disappeared  twenty  years  earlier, 
the  recollection  of  its  cumbersome  processes  of  combustion 
still  lingered  among  our  seniors.  All  the  same,  they  were  fine 
old  gentlemen,  and  it  was  to  one  of  them  that  I  am  indebted 
for  my  first  quasi-staff  appointment. 

The  regiment  was  inspected  in  December  1861  by  a  medical 
officer  of  high  degree,  whose  official  report  declared  it  to  be 
suffering  from  a  too  prolonged  sojourn  in  the  enfeebling  forests 
of  Burmah,  and  who  recommended  its  early  removal  to  the 
drier  climate  of  India.  Orders  were  received  in  January  1862 
for  our  removal  to  Madras.  The  battalion  was  to  descend  the 
river  in  two  separate  bodies  each  of  five  companies.  The  old 
colonel  who  was  to  command  the  last  of  these  detachments 
appointed  me  as  the  staff  officer  of  the  wing,  and  aU  at  once  I 
found  myself  adjutant,  paymaster,  and  quartermaster  of  some 
four  or  five  hundred  men.  A  month  later  we  moved  in  a  great 
fleet  of  boats  down  the  Sittang  River.  The  water  was  now 
very  low,  and  at  one  or  two  places  elephants  were  used  to  shove 
with  their  heads  the  flat-bottomed  boats  over  the  sand-bars 
in  the  stream.  Where  the  river  ended  and  the  estuary  began 
we  had  some  exciting  experiences  of  the  dreaded  '  bore.'  Our 
boatmen  were  fully  prepared  for  it,  and  the  boats  were  all 
taken  out  from  the  banks  and  anchored  in  mid-channel ;  bow- 
men, crew,  and  steersman  were  all  at  their  posts  ;  the  '  Caligima 
Yeh  '  was  constantly  uttered  among  them.  After  we  had  been 
some  time  thus  moored  a  low  noise  became  audible  far  down 
stream  ;  this  sound  gradually  grew  in  depth  and  volume,  but 
neither  the  water  around  our  boats  nor  the  reach  of  the  river 
below  us  showed  any  sign  of  motion.  The  sound  increased 
rapidly  ;  it  was  now  coming  to  us  across  the  neck  of  reed- 
covered  land  round  which  the  river  disappeared  at  the  end 
of  the  last  reach  which  our  sight  commanded.  All  at  once  a 
great  white  billow  of  water  appeared,  sweeping  round  this 


32     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

neck  of  land.  At  the  banks  the  splash  of  this  white  wave 
rose  several  feet  in  the  air ;  but  when  the  entire  wave  had 
rounded  the  turn,  one  could  see  that  in  the  central  part  of 
the  river  the  wave  was  comparatively  low,  yet  all  of  it  was 
curling  forward  almost  in  a  straight  line  up-stream.  It  struck 
our  boats  fuU  on  the  bows  ;  all  of  them  rose  well  to  the  impact  ; 
but  some  were  torn  from  their  moormgs,  making  confusion  as 
they  ran  amuck  among  the  others.  It  was  a  fine  sight — 
the  '  bore  '  itself,  and  the  manner  in  which  the  boatmen  bore 
themselves. 

The  next  night  we  marched  across  the  low  ground  to  Pegu. 
At  the  moment  of  starting  from  Khyatsoo  an  incident  occurred 
which  fortunatelj^  ended  happily.  A  man  of  recalcitrant 
character  m  the  regiment,  who  had  been  a  prisoner  for  some 
time,  refused  to  march.  As  I  was  acting  as  paymaster  as  well 
as  adjutant,  the  prisoners  and  the  cash  chest  of  the  regiment 
were  in  my  charge,  I  had  come  to  the  guard  to  see  the  cash 
chest  safely  put  into  a  Burmese  buffalo  waggon,  and  the  guard 
and  prisoners  moved  with  it  after  the  column.  As  the  first 
battalion  was  moving  off,  the  prisoner  in  question  suddenly 
refused  to  budge.  What  was  to  be  done  ?  The  only  course 
possible  was  to  tie  him  to  the  rear  of  the  waggon  ;  he  would 
then  have  to  march  perforce.  But  in  this  arrangement  the 
buffaloes  had  not  been  reckoned  with.  These  curious  animals 
have  never  taken  to  the  English  invaders.  You  will  see  a 
small  native  boy  leading  or  driving  a  pair  of  enormous  blue 
beasts  with  perfect  command  over  them,  but  they  will  shy  from, 
and  sometimes  charge  at,  any  European  who  may  approach 
them.  On  this  occasion,  no  sooner  was  the  word  to  march 
given,  than  the  buffaloes  attached  to  our  treasure  waggon, 
seeing  that  the  other  end  of  the  waggon  had  an  English  soldier 
attached  to  it,  began  to  behave  in  a  very  excited  manner  ; 
and  to  make  matters  worse,  our  prisoner  still  refused  to  march. 
The  only  thing  then  to  be  done  was  to  lift  the  man  bodily 
into  the  waggon,  and  put  him  in  company  with  the  cash  chest. 
This  was  done  in  a  twinkling  ;  but  now  the  buffaloes,  growing 
quite  beyond  control,  started  off  across  country  over  dry  paddy 
*  bunds,'  deep  ruts,  and  many  other  obstacles.  The  guard  was 
quickly  left  behind  ;  the  infuriated  buffaloes,  with  their  driver, 
the  waggon,  the  cash  chest,  the  prisoner  in  tow,  were  careering 


EMBARKATION  FOR  MADRAS  33 

madly  over  the  plain,  making  the  most  horrible  noise  possible 
to  imagine.  Being  on  horseback  I  was  able  to  keep  up  with 
this  tornado  ;  and  I  could  see  that  in  the  stampede  the  prisoner 
and  the  regimental  cash  chest  seemed  to  be  having  a  tremen- 
dous boxing  match  in  the  interior  of  the  conveyance,  as  they 
were  shot  up  and  down  and  about  by  the  incessant  joltings 
of  this  primitive  vehicle.  The  prisoner,  as  a  light  weight  in 
the  contest,  got  a  good  deal  the  worst  of  it.  There  was  a  hole 
in  the  wicker  bottom  of  the  waggon,  and  at  last  the  prisoner's 
legs  got  into  this  opening,  and  the  unequal  fight  was  terminated 
by  his  whole  body  following  its  legs  through  the  aperture, 
leaving  the  regimental  cash  chest  alone  in  its  glory.  The  rope 
which  tied  the  prisoner  to  the  waggon  quickly  ran  its  length, 
and  then  he  was  dragged  along  the  ground  after  the  waggon 
in  a  very  alarming  manner.  AU  I  could  do  was  to  hack  at 
the  ropes  with  my  sword  as  I  galloped  along,  and  between  the 
cutting  at  the  line  and  the  strain  upon  it  the  man  was  soon  set 
free.  He  was  black,  and  bruised,  and  bleeding,  but  the  first 
words  he  uttered  when  the  guard  had  overtaken  us  soon  re- 
assured me  of  his  safety.     '  I  '11  march  now,'  he  said. 

About    the    beginning    of   spring    the   wing    embarked   at 
Rangoon  for  Madras. 


CHAPTER    III 

From  Rangoon  to  Madras.  A  hurricane  at  sea.  The  Nilgherry  Mountains. 
The  Carnatic  Plain.  The  lives  and  thoughts  of  Eastern  peoples.  Leave 
spent  on  the  western  coast. 

We  were  carried  in  two  vessels — a  steamer  and  a  sailing  ship, 
the  first  towing  the  second.  As  my  lot  fell  to  the  sailing  vessel, 
I  will  deal  with  it  only.  For  two  days  all  went  well  with  us, 
but  on  the  morning  of  the  third  day  a  change  began  to  show 
itself  in  the  aspects  of  sea  and  sky.  A  curious  grey  gloom 
spread  itself  quickly  over  the  circle  of  the  ocean  ;  everything 
became  the  same  colour  ;  there  was  little  or  no  wind,  but  the 
still,  unbroken  surface  heaved  a  little.  This  undulation  grew 
more  perceptible  as  the  morning  passed,  until  it  began  to  lift 
our  ship  uneasily,  and  made  her  rise  and  fall  upon  the  tow-line. 
The  barometer  began  to  fall.  Whatever  it  was,  we  appeared 
to  be  going  to  meet  it,  and  it  seemed  that  it  was  coming  to 
meet  us  also.  Our  captain  was  a  rather  elderly  man  of  the 
Indian  Marine  Service,  and  he  appeared  to  be  suffering  from 
marked  depression  of  spirits,  which  one  of  the  junior  officers 
explained  was  the  result  of  the  death  of  a  brother,  who  had 
been  drowned  a  couple  of  weeks  earlier  in  the  Rangoon  River 
through  the  upsetting  of  his  boat  as  he  was  proceeding  from 
the  shore  to  his  ship  lying  in  the  river.  During  the  two  days 
we  had  been  on  board  he  had  kept  to  his  cabin,  and  had  not 
taken  his  meals  with  us  in  the  saloon.  The  second  officer,  a 
gentleman  named  Salmon,  impressed  us  all  as  being  the 
moving  and  governing  spirit  of  the  ship's  company.  These 
latter  were  all  Lascars  from  the  Chittagong  side  of  the  Bay 
of  Bengal.  They  were  a  poor  lot,  but,  so  far,  there  was  little 
or  no  occasion  for  their  services  on  the  deck  or  aloft,  nor  did 
it  seem  likely  that  there  would  be  any  ;  all  the  sails  were  furled. 
The  chain  cable  had  been  left  in  great  coils  along  the  deck,  for 
the  run  across  the  Bay  of  Madras  in  the  wake  of  the  steamer 

34 


IN  THE  JAWS  OF  A  HURRICANE  36 

even  at  the  slow  rate  of  towing  was  not  expected  to  occupy 
more  than  five  or  six  days.  The  Tubalcain,  as  our  ship  was 
named,  was  an  old  and  cranky  craft,  half  transport,  half 
warship.  She  mounted  a  couple  of  guns  on  the  main-deck. 
The  strong  suns  of  the  Bay  of  Bengal  and  the  Persian  Gulf 
had  not  improved  the  seaworthiness  of  her  timbers. 

At  the  head  of  the  native  crew  there  was  a  powerful  and 
masterful-looking  *  Syrang,'  or  mate  of  Lascars,  in  whom  both 
European  officers  and  Indian  crew  seemed  to  have  complete 
confidence. 

We  passed  the  Cocos  Channel  between  Burmah  and  the 
Andaman  Islands,  and  were  now  well  into  the  centre  of  the 
Bay  of  Bengal.  Suddenly  the  gloomy  murkiness  of  the  sea 
and  sky  became  lit  to  the  westward  with  vivid  lightnings,  and 
the  rumbles  of  an  incessant  thunder  struck  the  ear  ;  there 
was  still  hardly  any  wind,  but  hot  puffs  of  storm  came  at  in- 
tervals from  ahead,  ceasing  as  quickly  as  they  arose.  Then  all 
at  once  a  storm  began,  and  a  vast  commotion  manifested  itself 
among  the  crew  on  deck.  The  motion  of  the  ship  on  the  tow- 
line  had  become  more  and  more  uneasy  as  the  sea  rose.  AU 
at  once  a  big  wave  sprang  like  a  panther  upon  the  bows  of  the 
Tvhalcain,  scattered  the  Lascars  that  were  on  the  forecastle, 
and  jumped  again  into  the  sea,  carrying  with  it  our  splendid 
Syrang.  The  Syrang  swam  bravely,  and  as  he  passed  beneath 
the  stern  of  the  ship  he  caught  at  the  log-line  that  was  hanging 
from  it,  trailing  in  the  wake  of  the  vessel ;  but  the  rate  at 
which  we  were  being  towed,  slow  though  it  was,  was  too  fast  for 
the  man  to  let  him  get  a  firm  grip  on  the  thin  line,  and  it  ran 
through  his  fingers  to  the  end  where  the  patent  brass  log  was 
twirling  like  a  fishing  minnow ;  that,  of  course,  was  impossible 
to  hold,  and  we  saw  the  poor  fellow  still  swimming  bravely  on 
the  tops  of  the  waves  behind  us.  There  was  a  shout  to  cut 
the  tow-line,  but  that  could  not  be  done  without  orders  from 
the  steamer,  which  all  this  time  had  been  tugging  us  into  the 
jaws  of  a  hurricane,  for  that  was  what  all  this  strange  turmoil, 
and  thunder,  and  gloom  of  the  afternoon  had  really  meant. 

The  captain  of  the  steamer  seemed  now  to  realise  what  he 
was  in  for,  for  he  shouted  through  a  trumpet,  '  I  am  throwing 
off  the  hawser,'  and  in  a  couple  of  mLuutes  more  we  were 
separated  from  him.     I  shall  never  forget  the  look  of  things 


36     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :  AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

that  evening  when  we  found  ourselves  left  alone  in  that  deepen- 
ing light  and  rising  hurricane,  as  we  saw  our  hitherto  guide 
and  leader  steaming  off  into  the  black  gloom  of  the  coming 
night.  There  was  a  great  deal  of  confusion  for  a  moment, 
but  the  best  men  stepped  instinctively  to  the  front,  and  dis- 
cipline soon  reasserted  itself.  It  had  all  happened  so  suddenly 
that  it  was  inevitable  the  parting  of  the  ways  should  have 
found  us  unprepared.  The  second  officer,  whose  name  I  have 
given,  sho"W''ed  himself  master  of  the  situation  in  a  moment. 
The  first  thing  he  had  to  do  was  to  restore  spirit  and  confidence 
among  the  Lascars,  shaken  as  they  were  by  the  recent  loss  of 
their  leader.  Fortunately,  we  were  as  yet  only  on  the  outer 
edge  of  the  main  whirlwind,  that  stiU  lay  to  the  westward,  and 
the  lightnmg  and  thunder  were  all  ahead  of  us.  Four  of  the 
strongest  of  the  Lascars  were  now  lashed  to  the  tiller,  a  few 
sails  were  set  on  the  lower  yards  and  booms,  the  decks  were 
cleared  of  some  of  the  loose  rubbish  that  encumbered  them, 
and  a  course  was  laid  which  gave  the  ship  greater  ease  in  the 
now  boiling  cross-seas  that  were  showing  themselves.  When 
night  closed  we  were  running  towards  the  north-west,  amid 
a  rapid  alternation  of  blinding  flashes  of  lightnmg  and  inky 
darkness.  The  hatches  of  the  lower  decks  had  aU  been  battened 
down  upon  the  soldiers  and  the  women  and  children,  the  dead- 
lights fastened,  and  only  the  reefed  foresail  and  some  other 
light  fore-and-aft  canvas  set.  The  barometer  was  still  falling. 
A  couple  of  hours  later  the  full  crash  of  the  hurricane  came. 
No  one  can  ever  describe  such  a  scene  accurately.  There  are 
things  in  it  that  when  put  into  words  are  bound  to  appear 
exaggerations.  There  is  no  sea  and  no  sky,  and  no  air.  They 
have  all  become  one  vast,  black,  solid,  gigantic  animal,  com- 
pared to  which  the  lion  is  a  lamb,  the  whale  a  minnow,  the 
biggest  cannon  a  child's  popgun.  There  is  no  sea  running 
as  in  an  ordinary  storm  ;  beneath  this  awful  wind  the  sea 
crouches  for  a  time  like  a  lashed  hound,  and  that  is  exactly 
what  it  is.  It  cannot  get  up  and  run  before  that  vast  wall 
of  wind.  It  lies  down  at  first  and  the  wind  mows  it  like  grass, 
shaves  it  off  in  swathes  of  white  foam  which  are  caught  up  into 
the  rushing  wind  itself,  so  that  no  eye  can  open  against  it, 
and  no  face  can  face  its  saltness.  But  the  roar  is  the  thmg 
that  lives  longest  in  memory  ;    it  seems  to  swallow  even  the 


SUBSIDENCE  OF  THE  STORM  37 

thunder,  as  though  that  too,  like  the  sea,  had  been  brayed 
into  it. 

As  the  night  wore  on  the  damage  grew ;  there  was  no  attempt 
made  to  take  in  sail,  and  one  by  one  they  were  blown  away 
into  the  night.  The  ship  then  was  put  before  the  wind,  and 
we  ran  as  the  hurricane  listed.  Fortunately,  there  was  sea 
room  on  every  side.  At  times  we  seemed  to  get  thrown  into 
the  trough  of  the  seas.  No  man  could  stand  on  the  poop-deck, 
and  on  the  quarter-deck  the  rolling  of  the  vessel  set  the  guns 
free  from  their  lashings,  and  caused  them  to  go  rolling  from 
one  side  of  the  deck  to  the  other,  until  they  broke  through 
the  bulwarks  and  shot  out  into  the  sea.  The  chain  cable 
also  got  adrift  on  the  deck,  and  began  to  roll  its  immense  links 
from  side  to  side  as  the  ship  lurched  to  and  fro.  The  watch 
could  not  live  on  the  deck  ;  they  were  brought  into  the  saloon, 
where  they  lay  on  the  floor  so  beaten  that  one  could  walk  over 
their  bodies.  Our  boats,  too,  were  torn  from  their  davits, 
one  wave  carrying  away  the  long-boat  and  some  live-stock 
that  were  penned  within  it.  Towards  morning  the  upper 
foremast  went  with  a  great  crash,  and  the  wreck  of  it  could 
not  be  cleared.  Just  before  daybreak  some  one  discovered 
that  the  barometer  had  lifted  a  shade  above  the  extraordinary 
depth  to  which  it  had  fallen.  This  news  infused  life  and 
vigour  into  many,  who  amid  these  long-continued  crashes  and 
disasters  had  begun  to  give  up  hope,  and  had  made  up  their 
minds  that  the  ship  must  founder.  The  unfortunate  captain 
had  shut  himself  up  m  his  cabm,  the  Lascar  crew  were  com- 
pletely demoralised,  half  of  us  landsmen  were  lying  in  the  most 
exhausting  pangs  of  sea-sickness,  and  the  ship  herself  was 
only  a  floating  wreck — boats,  yards,  gone  ;  booms  broken,  guns 
disappeared.  When  daylight  came  it  was  seen  that  the 
hurricane  was  going  down  as  quickly  as  it  had  arisen.  There 
was  one  man  who  had  fought  the  elements  undauntedly 
throughout  that  long  night,  Salmon,  the  second  officer.  He 
had  lashed  himself  securely  to  the  mizzen-mast  before  the 
worst  came,  and  from  there  he  called  his  orders  to  the  steersmen. 
Undoubtedly,  he  saved  the  ship. 

A  dead  calm  succeeded  the  rage  of  storm,  the  sun  came  up 
bright  in  the  east.  Away  to  the  north-west  a  vast  bank  of 
hurricane  was  driving  towards  the  Orissa  coast.     We  were 


38     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

about  one  hundred  and  iBity  miles  out  of  our  true  course,  a 
dismantled  wreck  upon  the  heaving  ocean.  By  the  afternoon 
things  were  got  into  some  shipshape,  and  we  were  able  to 
bend  some  sails  and  rig  up  a  little  canvas  again.  Then,  when 
observations  had  been  taken,  a  course  was  set  for  Madras. 
Meanwhile  the  women  and  children  had  been  brought  up 
and  laid  out  on  the  deck ;  they  had  suffered  much.  The  seams 
of  the  deck  had  opened,  the  strained  timbers  had  let  floods 
of  water  into  decks  and  holds — everything  was  water-soaked. 

A  week  later  we  crept  into  Madras ;  the  steamer  had  got  in 
four  days  earlier.  She  gave  a  bad  report  of  the  chances  of  the 
Tuhalcain ;  we  were  given  up  as  lost,  poor  chaps !  The 
Army  List  page  of  the  69th  Regiment  had  to  be  revised,  and 
then  it  had  to  be  revised  again  !  We  were  quartered  in 
Fort  St.  George,  a  four-company  detachment  being  sent  to 
Wellington  in  the  Nilgherry  HOls.  A  new  colonel  and  several 
officers  joined,  and  fresh  drafts  were  awaiting  us.  I  closed  my 
accomits  with  the  paymaster  and  the  quartermaster,  handed 
over  the  wing  documents  to  the  adjutant,  and  started  for  the 
hills  with  a  wonderful  little  Pegu  pony,  which  had  escaped 
injury  on  the  deck  of  the  steamer.  He  had  been  thrown 
out  of  his  crib  and  rolled  about  the  deck,  but  had  picked 
himself  together  again  and  again,  and  escaped  with  a  few 
cuts  and  bruises.  Some  other  horses  had  to  be  cast  into  the 
sea. 

I  know  no  change  so  satisfying  to  body,  soul,  and  sense  as 
that  which  a  man  experiences  when  in  the  month  of  May  he 
passes  from  the  Indian  plains  to  the  Indian  hills.  No  trans- 
formation scene  can  equal  that  change.  Every  wearied  sense, 
exhausted  in  the  intense  heat  of  the  lower  lands,  sprmgs  at 
once  into  Hfe.  The  air  of  India,  when  it  is  breathed  at  an 
elevation  of  six  thousand  to  eight  thousand  feet,  is  purity  and 
freshness  and  life  itself,  and  nowhere  does  it  combine  all  those 
attributes  in  a  higher  degree  than  in  the  Nilgherry  Mountains, 
the  Blue  Hills.  Blue  they  are  when  seen  from  a  distance, 
but  green  when  reached,  and  what  is  more,  green  with  all  the 
verdure  and  scent  of  the  grasses  and  flowers  of  Europe.  That 
is  the  touch  which  makes  us  at  once  at  home  in  these  beautiful 
hills.  Through  the  rose  hedges  at  Coonoor  flits  the  smaU 
brown  wren  ;   blackbirds  and  thrushes  build  their  nests  in  the 


SOME  CONTRASTS  39 

gardens  at  Ootacamund,  and  the  lark  singa  high  and  clear 
in  the  radiant  atmosphere  over  Dodabetta.  All  our  rare 
shrubs  are  there,  too,  in  tree  form — the  heliotrope,  azalea, 
myrtle,  magnoha,  gardenia  grow  to  forest  heights.  From 
fifty  to  sixty  inches  of  rain  fall  annually  on  this  lofty  tableland, 
from  which  innumerable  streams  and  watercourses  wind  their 
opposite  ways  to  rivers  which  fall  into  the  Bay  of  Bengal  on 
one  side  and  the  Arabian  Sea  on  the  other.  Once  the  level  of 
the  upper  hills  is  gained  the  ground  is  practicable  for  riding 
almost  in  any  direction,  and  from  the  ramparts  which  look 
down  on  the  plains  of  the  Camatic  on  the  east  to  those  which 
overhang  the  coast  of  Malabar  on  the  west  some  six  hundred 
or  seven  hundred  square  miles  of  rolling  tableland  lie  open  to 
the  traveller.  If  the  Garden  of  Eden  was  not  here,  it  might 
well  have  been.  There  are  points  on  the  eastern  ramparts 
of  this  paradise  from  which,  in  gardens  hung  with  roses  and 
jessamine,  one  can  sit  and  look  down  from  a  clear  and  bracing 
atmosphere  upon  a  hundred  miles  of  the  fevered,  quivering 
plains  of  Southern  India  seven  thousand  feet  below. 

In  this  delightful  spot  I  spent  a  couple  of  months,  the  Bur- 
mese pony  enabling  explorations  to  be  made  in  many  directions 
through  the  hills.  The  change  back  to  Madras  in  the  hottest 
time  of  the  year  was,  however,  very  trying,  and  unfortunately 
the  heat  disabled  so  many  of  our  officers  that  those  who  were 
not  on  the  sick  list  found  themselves  almost  incessantly  detailed 
for  garrison  or  regimental  duty.  Many  of  the  men  fell  sick  too, 
and  cholera  appeared  among  them.  The  ground  upon  which 
Fort  St.  George  stood  was  a  very  hotbed  of  disease.  In 
October  came  a  welcome  change,  for  the  musketry  training 
began,  and  I  moved  to  a  place  called  Palaveram,  about  twelve 
miles  to  the  south-west  of  Fort  St.  George,  for  that  practice. 
It  was  here  possible  to  see  a  good  deal  of  the  lives  of  the  people 
of  Southern  India — the  outdoor  people,  they  who  bend  and 
toil  in  the  paddy-fields ;  who  dwell  in  mud  huts  without  the 
commonest  articles  of  household  furniture  ;  who  have  scarcely 
any  clothes ;  who  are  lean  of  leg,  and  shrunken  in  body,  and 
hollow  of  stomach  ;  whose  women  work  at  water  wheels  all 
day  long  ;  who  are  patient  beyond  any  limit  of  patience 
known  to  white  men  ;  who  live  and  die  scratching  the  hot 
soil  and  pouring  water  upon  it ;  the  poor,  starved  race,  the 


40     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :  AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

feeble  foundation  of  aU  the  wealth,  splendour,  and  magnifi- 
cence the  very  name  of  which  has  made  the  hungry  mouth 
of  the  rapacious  West  water  for  the  last  four  hundred  years. 
How  long  will  it  go  on  ? 

Looking  back  on  thef  lives  of  the  toiling  millions  of  the 
Carnatic  plain  through  fifty  years,  one  can  see  many  thmgs 
which  were  not  then  visible.  In  the  fulness  of  his  animal 
life  the  British  subaltern  in  a  marching  regiment  is  not 
overmuch  given  to  philosophic  inquiry.  He  drops  easily 
into  the  belief  that  he  represents  the  highest  form  of 
civilisation,  and  that  he  has  only  to  snipe-shoot  or  pig-stick 
his  way  through  the  world,  while  at  the  same  time  in  some 
mysterious  manner  he  is  bearing  aloft  the  banner  of  British 
freedom  and  Western  culture.  It  would  be  better,  perhaps, 
for  the  contmuance  of  the  '  Raj  '  which  he  represents  if  the 
British  oificer  could  by  inclination,  or  even  through  com- 
pulsion, put  himself  m  closer  touch  and  sympathy  with  the 
lives  and  thoughts  of  the  masses  of  the  Eastern  peoples  with 
whom  the  greater  portion  of  his  service  has  to  be  spent  under 
the  conditions  of  army  life  now  existing  in  the  Empire.  I 
will  not  pretend  that  I  was  different  from  my  fellows  in  this 
respect,  but  even  at  that  time  I  think  I  had  an  instinctive 
knowledge  that  the  work  we  were  engaged  upon  in  India  lacked 
the  greatest  element  of  stability — sympathy  with  the  people 
of  India.  I  find  myself  writing  at  this  time,  '  It  has  yet  to 
be  proved  ...  in  our  rapid  development  of  intellectual  power 
among  the  people  of  India  .  .  .  whether  it  be  possible  to  graft 
upon  the  decaying  trunk  of  an  old  civilisation  the  young  offshoot 
of  a  newer  and  more  vigorous  one.  For  my  part,  I  am  mclined 
to  think  that  the  edifice  we  are  uprearing  in  India  has  its 
foundation  resting  upon  sand.  We  give  the  native  of  India  our 
laws  and  our  scientific  discoveries ;  he  sees  that  they  are  good, 
and  he  adopts  them  and  uses  them  as  some  counterbalance 
to  the  misfortune  of  our  presence  in  his  land.  .  .  .  He  knows 
that  the  white  man  came  as  a  suppliant  trader  to  his  shores 
and  begged  humbly  for  the  crumbs  of  his  riches.  He  believes 
our  religion  to  be  a  thing  of  yesterday  compared  to  the  antiquity 
of  his  own.  He  knows  that  by  violence  and  bribery,  often- 
times by  treachery  and  fraud,  we  obtained  possession  of  his 
lands.     He  knows  that  by  force  of  arms  and  strength  of  disci- 


THE  ARMY  OLD  AND  NEW  41 

pline  we  hold  our  possessions  ;  nevertheless,  he  hates  and  fears 
us,  and  while  he  adopts  and  uses  the  discoveries  of  our  civilisa- 
tion, he  still  holds  that  civiUsation  in  contempt.  We  pull 
down  the  barriers  within  which  his  mind  has  hitherto  moved, 
but  the  flood  of  his  inquiry  being  set  flowing,  we  cannot  stay 
or  confine  it  to  our  own  limits.  I  can  see  signs  that  this  great 
structure  wo  are  building  will  be  a  ruin  before  it  is  completed. 
I  can  find  no  instance  m  history  of  a  nation  which  has  possessed 
an  old  and  completed  civilisation  of  its  own  being  able  to  fuse 
it,  imperfect  though  it  may  be,  into  a  newer  and  a  foreign  one.' 
When  I  re-read  these  words  now  I  see  better  what  was  wantmg 
in  the  edifice. 

There  was  another  subject,  and  one  which  appears  to  have 
reached  a  crucial  stage  in  the  political  outlook  of  our  present 
day,  but  which  my  old  notebooks  show  was  very  evident  to 
my  subaltern  comprehension  just  fifty  years  ago.  Notwith- 
standing all  I  have  heard  and  read  about  the  superiority  of 
voluntary  enlistment  over  conscription,  it  is  still,  I  think,  an 
open  question.  In  a  few  years  the  old  British  army  will  be 
extinct — the  rocks  of  the  Crimea  and  the  sands  of  India 
have  covered  all  but  the  last  of  it.  How  will  voluntary  enlist- 
ment work  then  ?  While  the  army  remained  small  and  select, 
as  it  was  prior  to  the  Crimean  War,  all  went  well ;  strong 
men  were  easily  obtained,  and  no  soldiers  equalled  ours  in 
strength,  courage,  and  endurance.  That  day  is  gone.  We 
have  now  to  garrison  India  with  three  times  the  number  of 
men  that  used  to  suffice  there,  and  our  home  army  has  to  be 
considerably  increased.  Already  the  result  is  visible  :  the 
standard  has  to  be  reduced  ;  men  are  now  taken  who  would 
have  been  rejected  with  scorn  a  few  years  ago  ;  we  get  recruits 
no  longer  from  the  rural  districts,  but  from  the  slums  of  the 
big  cities,  and  even  from  these  sources  we  find  it  difficult  to 
obtain  them  in  sufficient  numbers.  I  believe  that  a  serious 
war  to-morrow  would  prove  to  our  cost  that  the  army  is  not 
of  the  old  stamp.  At  present  enough  is  still  left  of  the  old 
stufiE  to  counterbalance  the  admixture  of  the  new  element, 
but  that  wUl  soon  cease,  and  then  England  will  have  to  elect 
between  a  bad  army  and  conscription.  I  shall  never  forget 
the  sorry  contrast  that  presented  itself  on  the  bank  of  the 
Sittang  River  at  Tonghoo,  where  one  draft  of  a  hundred  and 


42     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

twenty  men  of  the  new  model  formed  up  on  the  high  shore  from 
the  boats.  The  old  soldiers  had  come  down  from  the  big  teak 
huts  a  couple  of  hundred  yards  away  to  see  the  new  arrivals. 
The  contrast  between  the  two  sets  of  men  was  not  flattering 
to  the  newcomers.  The  69th  Regiment  had  been  in  the  West 
Indies  during  the  Crimean  War.  The  men  were  thus  of  the 
old  type,  the  men  of  Meeanee  and  Sobraon,  men  of  splendid 
physique  and  well-chiselled  feature.  The  flank  companies 
were  still  in  being,  the  Grenadier  and  Light  Infantry  Com- 
panies. I  often  look  now  as  soldiers  pass  and  marvel  what 
has  become  of  those  old  Greek  gods,  for  not  only  are  the  figures 
gone,  but  the  faces  have  also  vanished — those  straight,  clean- 
cut  foreheads,  the  straight  or  aquiline  noses,  the  keen,  steady 
eyes,  the  resolute  lower  jaws  and  shapely  turned  chins.  What 
subtle  change  has  come  upon  the  race  ?  Is  it  the  work  of 
railroads  ?  Free  Trade  ?  the  Penny  Press  ?  Democracy  ? 
Education  ?  All  I  know  is  that  they  are  gone  as  the  buffalo 
are  gone  from  the  prairies,  or  the  Red  Man  from  the  American 
continent.  I  sometimes  think  that  if  these  men  were  bred 
amongst  us  to-day  there  need  have  been  no  suffragettes. 

In  1861  and  1862  little  was  occurring  in  India  to  make  resi- 
dence there  interesting  to  a  soldier .  Profound  peace  had  followed 
the  close  of  the  Mutiny.  A  great  conflict  had  broken  out  in 
North  America  ;  but  ocean  telegraph  cables  were  stiU  unknown, 
and  the  news  of  aU  the  desperate  fighting  upon  the  shores  of 
the  Rappahannock  and  the  Potomac  and  in  the  Shenandoah 
Valley  took  a  long  while  to  get  to  Madras.  Only  in  one  sense, 
and  that  a  strange  one,  was  this  gigantic  conflict  brought 
immediately  home  to  us  on  the  Carnatic  coast.  One  hot  season, 
when  Madras  lay  gasping  for  breath,  there  were  no  cooling 
drinks  to  be  had — the  ice-ship  from  Boston  to  Madras  had  not 
arrived.  The  Alabama  was  known  to  be  out,  and  to  her 
account  the  fact  of  the  ice-ship's  being  missing  was  at  once  laid. 
The  Southern  cause  had  many  supporters  among  us  at  the 
time,  but  this  supposed  interference  with  our  thirst  by  the 
celebrated  Confederate  cruiser  was  a  thing  which  had  not 
been  reckoned  with  when  the  balance  between  the  rival  com- 
batants had  been  struck  in  our  community.  Had  not  our 
Mess  rights  just  as  pressing  to  us  as  those  of  Alabama  or  the 
Carolinas  to  the  Southerners,  and  had  they  not  been  violated  in 


THE  CHOLERA  43 

this  matter  ?  So  for  a  time,  at  least,  there  was  pause  in 
debate  among  us,  imtil  one  day  the  ice-ship  was  seen  in  the 
oflfing,  and  the  Federal  cause  went  down  again  to  zero  like 
the  temperature  in  our  tumblers. 

We  were  seldom  quite  free  from  cholera  at  this  time  in  the 
fort  at  Madras.  It  seemed  to  strike  at  random  among  us. 
Although  the  disease  had  been  the  scourge  of  India  for  more 
than  thirty  years,  little  was  known  about  its  treatment,  and 
still  less  about  the  science  of  its  cause.  Certainly  the  con- 
dition of  the  fort  was  at  this  time  so  bad  as  to  make  it  un- 
necessary to  look  for  other  sources  of  disease  anywhere  else. 
At  about  2  A.M.  the  outlet  of  the  terrible  main  drain  of  Black 
Town  was  opened,  some  five  hundred  yards  to  the  north  of  the 
fort,  and  a  frightful  flood  of  pent  sewage  was  discharged  into 
the  sea.  The  current  set  down  shore,  and  thus  this  horrible 
black  mass  was  carried  slowly  dowTi  along  the  shingle  in 
front  of  the  quarters,  filling  the  entire  air  of  night  with  a 
stench  so  penetrating  that  it  caused  the  wretched  inmates 
of  our  barracks  to  start  instantly  into  wakefulness,  no  matter 
how  sound  might  be  the  sleep  into  which  nature,  wearied  by 
the  excessive  heat  of  the  day  and  early  night,  had  at  that 
hour  faUen. 

Our  colonel,  a  most  estimable  man  and  an  excellent  ofl&cer, 
was  one  of  the  first  to  fall  a  victim  to  this  scourge  ;  his  own 
child  was  also  taken  on  the  same  day.  Several  of  the  finest 
men  went  too.  The  blow  fell  without  any  warning.  A  strong 
man  went  down  all  at  once  ;  he  was  carried  in  a  dhooley  to 
the  hospital ;  and  aU  was  over  in  six  or  eight  hours.  Certainly 
the  '  finest  appanage  of  the  British  Crown  '  levies  heavy  toll 
upon  the  Crown's  subjects.  '  The  Pagoda  Tree  '  has  its  roots 
in  the  graveyards  of  India's  military  cantonments. 

In  May  1863  I  set  out  with  two  other  officers  to  spend  our 
sixty  days'  '  privilege  leave '  in  visiting  the  western  coast  of 
the  peninsula.  We  were  to  cross  by  railway  to  Beypore, 
and  there,  taking  bullock  bandies,  proceed  northward  to 
the  falls  of  Gairsoppa,  near  Honore,  a  journey  of  two  hundred 
miles  by  road.  The  falls  are  said  to  be  the  most  remarkable 
in  India,  the  River  Sheranditty  precipitating  itself  down  the 
face  of  the  Western  Ghauts  in  leaps  of  eight  hundred  and  a 
thousand  feet.     As  the  south-west  monsoon  would  break  in 


44     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

June,  the  river  was  likely  to  be  in  full  flood  by  the  time  we 
reached  Gairsoppa.  Such  was  my  plan,  but  when  one  travels 
in  a  trio  there  is  always  a  chance  that  you  will  have  two  to  one 
against  you.  We  reached  Salem  in  the  evening,  and,  as  the 
train  stopped  there  for  the  night,  we  made  our  beds  on  the 
station  platform.  It  was  not  a  lively  experience,  as  a  cooHe 
died  of  cholera  close  by  us  during  the  night.  The  heat  was 
excessive,  and,  bad  as  the  fort  at  Madras  had  been,  this  was 
worse.  Next  morning  our  train  continued  its  western  pro- 
gress, and  the  evening  found  us  at  Palghaut.  We  got  into  the 
travellers'  bungalow  at  that  place.  Palghaut  hes  in  the 
bottom  of  a  great  rent  or  fissure  in  the  Western  Ghauts,  which 
gives  easy  and  level  access  to  the  Malabar  shore  from  the 
Carnatic.  On  either  side  of  a  very  long  defile  the  mountains 
rise  steeply.  Great  forests  of  teak,  blackwood,  and  green 
undergrowths  take  the  places  of  the  burnt,  cindery  hiUs  and 
arid  plains  of  Salem  and  Coimbatore. 

A  magnificent  storm,  the  prelude  to  the  opening  of  the 
monsoon,  burst  upon  Palghaut  that  night,  and  the  forest 
dripped  rain  for  many  hours ;  but  the  morning  broke  bright, 
and  again  our  train  resumed  its  slow  march  for  Be3rpore,  the 
terminus  on  the  Malabar  coast.  We  got  to  Cahcut  that  even- 
ing. This  old  town,  the  first  spot  in  India  reached  by  Vasco 
da  Gama,  and  described  as  being  then  a  place  of  great  magni- 
ficence, is  now  poor  and  decayed,  a  straggling  town  hidden 
in  cocoa-nut  palms,  its  old  harbour  silted  up,  a  big  sea  breaking 
ceaselessly  upon  its  straight  sandy  shore.  Here  preparations 
were  to  be  made  for  the  journey  of  two  hundred  miles  along 
the  coast  to  Honore,  but,  alas  for  the  permanence  of  our 
projects,  things  fell  out  badly  for  us. 

The  senior  member  of  our  httle  party  was  an  old  colonel 
whose  mihtary  career  of  close  upon  thirty  years  had  been  spent 
in  India.  He  had  an  old  native  servant,  '  Sam  '  by  name.  Sam 
liked  his  ease  as  much  as  did  his  master.  That  night  on  the 
railway  platform  at  Salem  had  checked  the  travelling  ardour  of 
both  master  and  man.  Under  date  10th  May  I  find  this  entry 
in  my  notebook,  '  Calicut.  Sam  lost.'  What  really  happened 
I  don't  know.  Sam  turned  up  in  the  night,  but  his  master's 
spirits  did  not  rise  with  the  return  of  this  ancient  native.  I 
find  the  following  entry  in  my  notebook  : — '  Calicut.     Various 


CONFLICTING  PLANS  45 

and  conflicting  plans,'  and  then  :   '  Scene,  the  Bungalow  in 
Calicut,  time  10  p.m. 

'  H.  Well,  out  of  this  infernal  hole  we  must  get,  so  let  us  decide 
at  once. 

'  M.  (from  his  bed).     Go  anywhere.     I  don't  care  where. 

'  B.  Why  not  Gairsoppa  ?  Mangalore  is  only  one  hundred  miles 
from  here. 

'  H.  I  vote  for  Palghaut. 

'  M.  I  think  Palghaut  a  capital  place. 

'  H.  We  can  stay  there  and  eat  our  stores. 

'  B.  Well,  we  can  never  show  our  faces  again  in  the  Mess  if  we 
do  that,  that 's  all  I  say. 

'  M.  Oh,  d the  Mess ! 

'  B.  (anxious  at  all  costs  to  save  the  ignominy  of  Palghaut). 
What  about  Sissapara  ? 

'  H.  Of  course,  Sissapara. 

'B.  Or  Cochin? 

'  H.  Cochin.     I  always  thought  it  an  excellent  place. 

'  M.  (very  sleepy).     Palghaut,  Palghaut. 

*  B.  Let 's  try  to  get  bandies  for  Cannanore. 

'  After  a  short  discussion  this  proposal  is  agreed  to,  and  Sam  and 
other  servants  are  despatched  for  bandy-wallahs.  Silence  until 
arrival  of  bandy-wallahs.  ]\L  sleeps.  Enter  the  wallahs  and 
servants. 

'  B.  (through  interpreter).     How  much  charge  to  Cannanore  ? 

*  Servant.  Twelve  rupees  each  band3\  (General  consternation, 
during  which  M.  wakes.) 

'  H.  We  will  give  him  ten  rupees.  (Animated  dialogue  ensues 
in  Telugu  between  servants  and  wallahs.  Offer  refused.  Exit 
wallahs.     M.  falls  asleep  murmuring  "  Palghaut.") 

'  Arrival  of  a  second  batch  of  wallahs,  who  after  a  protracted 
discussion  agree  to  take  three  masters  to  Caimanore  for  ten  rupees 
eight  annas  each  master.  An  advance  of  eight  rupees  on  each 
bandy  is  now  made,  and  general  harmony  appears  to  prevail. 
This  is  shortly  broken  by  fresh  outbreak  of  Telugu  tongue. 

'Servant  (interpreting).  He  says  '•Bridges,"  Sa. 

'  Travellers,  What  bridges  ? 

'  S.  Five  bridges,  Sa,     Master  must  pay  five  bridges, 

*  M.  (from  bed).      It 's  all  rot, 

'  Exit  second  batch  of  bandy  men.  Debate  adjourned  until 
next  morning,  when  a  last  effort  is  to  be  made  for  Mangalore  and 
Honore  en  route  to  Gairsoppa,  failing  which  all  agree  to  turn 
south  for  Cochin  and  Travancore. 


46     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

*  N.B. — The  rocks  I  have  to  guard  against  are  first  a  return  to 
Palghaut,  there  to  consume  our  stores.  Second,  a  retreat  to  PuUcat, 
a  place  on  the  coast  south  of  Madras,  said  to  be  famous  for  fish, 
but  not  otherwise  of  any  interest.' 

The  next  entry  is  made  at  a  place  called  Trichoor  on  the 
15th  May,  so  I  had  succeeded  in  getting  my  companions  south 
of  the  railway  line  which  led  back  to  Madras,  and  their  heads 
were  now  turned  towards  Cape  Comorin.  Trichoor  was  a  quaint 
old  place;  the  Portuguese  had  been  there,  and  the  Dutch;  then 
had  come  Hyder  Ali  and  Tippoo  Sultan.  Like  aU  the  other 
towns  and  villages  on  this  coast,  it  lay  deep  in  palm  trees. 
Here  began  that  remarkable  series  of  backwaters  which  run 
south  for  nearly  two  hundred  miles.  Three  lakes  of  salt  water 
are  separated  from  the  Arabian  Sea  by  a  thin  ridge  of  the 
cleanest  and  finest  sand,  sand  such  as  might  be  put  into  an 
hour-glass  without  further  refinement.  Upon  these  sands 
which  the  sea  has  cast  up  grow  beautiful  groups  of  palm  trees 
and  many  flowering  shrubs.  The  lakes  widen  out  at  intervals 
into  large  expanses  of  open  water,  and  at  other  places  narrow 
to  channels  of  canal  width,  fringed  with  mango  trees  and  spice 
plants.  Large  water-lilies  spread  themselves  from  the  shores, 
and  water-fowl  of  many  kinds  and  plumage  float  or  fly  over 
the  sparkling  waters.  Our  boat  carried  ten  oars,  and  under 
their  strokes,  and  often  with  a  sail  to  aid  the  rowers,  we  sped 
along,  and,  travelling  through  the  night,  reached  Cochin  at 
sunrise  next  morning. 

Cochin  was  in  its  way  the  most  mixed  and  variegated-looking 
spot  I  saw  in  the  East.  Once  everything  in  commerce,  it  had 
now  shrunken  to  next  to  nothing  in  the  world  of  barter.  The 
Portuguese  had  had  it,  and  the  Dutch  had  taken  it  from  them, 
and  made  much  of  it  in  their  peculiar  ways  of  business.  It 
used  to  be  said  of  old  that  the  Portuguese  began  their  colonial 
settlements  by  building  a  church,  that  the  Dutch  ina.ugurated 
theirs  by  building  a  fort,  and  that  we  commenced  ours  with 
a  public-house.  In  Cochin  this  triple  transition  can  stiU  be 
seen.  The  old  cathedral  of  da  Gama  or  Albuquerque  is  turned 
into  a  fort,  and  the  public-house  has  been  superimposed  upon 
both,  but  not  even  these  several  transitions  had  kept  trade 
true  to  its  old  centre.  It  had  fled  from  Cochin.  Eighty  years 
earlier  the  town  had  'a  harbour  filled  with  ships,  streets  crowded 


TO  QUILLON  47 

with  merchants,  and  warehouses  stored  with  goods  from  every 
part  of  Europe  and  Asia  '  ;  now  the  cocoa  palms  hid  the 
desolation  that  followed  the  destruction  of  the  fortifications 
and  public  buildings  by  order  of  the  British  authorities  in  1806. 
One  curious  survival  remained  :  there  were  still  to  be  seen  here 
representatives  of  the  old  pol^^glot  population  which  had  once 
made  it  famous.  St.  Thomas  the  Apostle  is  supposed  to  have 
come  here  in  the  earliest  days  of  Christianity,  and  two  distinct 
races  of  Jews  are  still  here,  the  black  and  the  red  Jews.  It 
is  strange,  too,  to  find  in  this  place  two  distinct  bodies  of 
Christians,  the  descendants  of  the  early  Syrian  proselytes 
of  St.  Thomas,  and  those  who  acknowledge  the  jurisdiction 
of  Rome.  These  do  not  worship  together,  no  more  than  do 
the  black  and  the  red  Jews. 

But  however  desirous  I  might  have  been  to  make  longer 
stay  in  this  museum  of  almost  extinct  Eastern  races,  one 
dominating  factor  forced  me  forward.  Another  wild  night 
of  rain  and  storm  broke  upon  us  as  we  sat  in  the  verandah  of 
the  travellers'  bungalow.  It  was  a  grand  sight  to  watch  the 
thunder-breeding  clouds  come  whirling  in  from  the  Indian 
Ocean,  giving  out  rain  deluges,  lightnings,  and  storm  gusts 
as  thej'  swept  over  the  roaring  beach  across  the  great  lagoon 
and  up  into  the  rocks  and  forests  of  the  range  of  the  Ghauts, 
which  rose  immediately  above  the  inland  waters.  But  those 
displays  of  fire  and  water  had  a  fatal  influence  upon  the  spirits 
of  my  companions.  Again  they  proposed  a  retreat  to  Madras. 
Fortunately,  in  a  moment  of  exuberant  expectation,  when  the 
weather  had  been  fine  a  day  or  two  earlier,  I  had  been  made  the 
paymaster  and  treasurer  of  the  expedition.  I  held  the  common 
purse.  There  was  no  use  in  any  further  expostulation  or 
pronouncement  as  to  what  the  Mess  would  say  about  the 
ignoble  polic}-  of  retirement  to  Palghaut,  so  I  waited  my 
opportunity  to  answer,  and  remarked  quietly  that  '  I  would 
crack  on  alone  for  Quillon  at  twelve  o'clock  next  day,  and 
had  engaged  a  large  boat  for  the  journey.'  There  was  another 
pause,  several  looks  at  the  weather  to  windward,  and  then 
came  the  final  plunge.  '  WeU,  we  won't  break  up  the  party. 
Let 's  all  go  together  to  Quillon.'  So  at  noon  next  daj^  we 
embarked  in  a  fine  boat  with  fourteen  rowers,  and  favoured 
by»a  fair  breeze  we  sped  bravely  through  the  water.      The 


48     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

day  was  glorious  with  sunshine,  the  water  clear  and  smooth. 
At  first  our  course  was  through  the  middle  of  the  great  blue 
lake,  the  shores  of  which  in  some  places  were  not  visible,  and 
in  others  just  marked  by  a  fringe  of  trees  which  seemed  to  be 
growing  out  of  water.  After  sunset  the  shores  closed  in 
towards  us  again,  and  we  pulled  all  night  under  a  brilliant  moon, 
arriving  at  Quillon  at  nine  next  morning.  A  mile  before  making 
the  landing-place,  we  came  on  one  of  the  many  mimic  promon- 
tories rising  from  the  water  which  has  a  stone  monument  built 
upon  it.  It  has  a  history.  Many  years  ago  a  certain  Colonel 
Gordon  was  resident  at  Quillon.  He  was  the  owner  of  a  large 
Newfoundland  dog.  One  morning  Gordon  was  bathing  in  the 
lake  off  this  promontory  ;  the  dog  lay  by  his  master's  clothes  on 
the  shore.  Suddenly  he  began  to  bark  in  a  most  violent  manner. 
Gordon,  unable  to  see  any  cause  for  the  animal's  excitement, 
continued  to  swim  in  the  deep  water.  The  dog  became  more 
violently  excited,  running  down  to  the  water's  edge  at  one 
particular  point.  Looking  in  the  direction  to  which  the 
animal's  attention  was  drawn,  the  swimmer  thought  that  he 
could  perceive  a  circular  ripple  moving  the  otherwise  smooth 
surface  of  the  lake.  Making  for  the  shore,  he  soon  perceived 
that  the  ripple  was  caused  by  some  large  body  moving  stealthily 
under  the  water.  He  guessed  at  once  the  whole  situation  : 
a  very  large  crocodile  was  swimming  well  below  the  surface, 
and  making  in  liis  direction.  The  huge  reptile  was  already 
partly  between  him  and  the  shore.  The  dog  knew  it  all. 
Suddenly  he  ceased  barking,  plunged  into  the  water,  and 
headed  in  an  obUque  line  so  as  to  intercept  the  moving  ripple. 
All  at  once  he  disappeared  from  the  surface,  dragged  down  by 
the  huge  beast  beneath.  When  the  dog  found  that  all  his 
efiforts  to  alarm  his  master  were  useless,  he  determined  to  give 
his  own  life  to  save  the  man's,  and  so  Colonel  Gordon  built 
the  monument  on  the  rock  above  the  scene,  and  planted  the 
casarina  tree  to  shadow  it. 

We  spent  a  couple  of  days  in  this  remote  but  beautiful 
cantonment  of  Quillon.  Here  under  date  23rd  May  1863 
I  find  the  following  entry  : — '  Dined  with  the  officers  23rd 
Madras  Native  Infantry  in  their  delightful  Mess.  Heard 
rumour  of  war  with  America.'  What  particular  rumour  of 
war  this  referred  to  in  the  long  civil  strife  I  cannot  now  identify, 


TRAVANCORE  49 

but  undoubtedly  during  those  years  of  the  early  'sixties  there 
were  many  times  when  the  question  of  peace  and  war  with  the 
Northern  States  hung  in  very  delicate  balance. 

Our  southward  course  now  led  to  Trivandrum,  the  capital 
of  Travancore.  This  small  native  state,  the  most  southern  in 
the  peninsula  of  India,  probably  combined  within  its  five 
thousand  square  miles  a  larger  diversity  of  scenery  and  race, 
and  a  more  extraordinary  variety  of  social  manners  and  customs, 
than  any  other  part  of  the  world  known  to  me. 

It  is  a  long  and  narrow  strip  of  territory  lying  between  an 
impassable  mountain  range  and  a  sea  upon  whose  shore  huge 
breakers  are  almost  always  beating.  The  mountain  barrier 
rises  to  heights  of  seven  thousand  and  eight  thousand  feet, 
and,  with  the  exception  of  two  gaps  or  ghats,  one  at  the  north 
end,  Palghaut,  the  other  at  the  south  end  near  Cape  Comorin, 
it  is  unbroken  and  untrodden  by  man.  Every  animal  from  the 
tiger  to  the  tmiest  monkey  is  in  the  forests  of  these  mountains  ; 
the  rivers  and  the  backwaters  are  fuU  of  fish,  birds  are  here 
in  vast  varieties  and  of  rainbow  colours,  and  reptile  Ufe  is  as 
plentiful  as  heat,  moisture,  and  underbush  can  make  it ;  but 
above  aU  other  life  that  of  man  is  the  most  varied  and  interest- 
ing. The  Nairs  and  Tiers  of  old  Hindoo  origin  are  generally  of 
fine  figure  and  handsome  face,  graceful  in  carriage,  and  of  a 
rich,  light  oUve  complexion.  A  limited  but  very  fierce  race  of 
Mohammedans  are  found  in  the  towns  along  the  coast,  Moplahs 
by  name  ;  these  are  descendants  of  old  Arab  traders  settled 
on  the  coast  long  before  da  Gama  appeared  from  Europe. 
High  up  in  the  wild  glens  and  secluded  '  sholahs  '  of  the  moun- 
tains are  an  extremely  rude  race,  who  dwell  in  little  round  bee- 
hive-shaped huts  and  live  upon  wild  animals,  and  cultivate 
a  few  patches  of  the  castor-oil  plant.  Of  these  people  I  shall 
have  occasion  to  speak  later. 

Out  of  a  total  population  of  more  than  one  million  souls 
Travancore  numbers  some  one  hundred  and  fifty  thousand 
Christians  of  Syrian  and  Portuguese  descent.  Here,  as 
elsewhere  in  India,  the  dominating  note  of  the  land  is  life. 
This  great  fervid  sun,  these  sweeps  of  rain,  this  rich  soil,  these 
limpid  waters,  have  all  combined  to  call  forth  in  forest,  plain, 
island,  lake,  and  shore  an  all-pervading  sense  of  human,  animal, 
bird,  fish,  and  insect  existence.     In  these  countries  you  cannot 

D 


50     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

get  away  from  this  fact  of  life  ;  it  jostles  you  in  the  towns,  it 
roars  at  you  in  the  forest,  it  flies  and  hums  about  you  in  the  air, 
it  swims  around  jt^ou  in  the  waters.  These  graceful  Nair  and 
Tier  women  with  their  rich  golden  skins  and  black,  silky  tresses, 
wading  in  the  warm  inland  waters,  or  working  in  their  island 
gardens  amid  all  the  spice  plants  of  the  earth,  are,  no  doubt, 
the  descendants  of  the  people  whom  Camoens  saw  on  this 
coast,  and  sighed  after,  and  wrote  about  in  the  dread  days  of 
misfortune  and  captivity. 

Continuing  our  southern  course  from  Quillon,  we  reached 
the  end  of  the  greater  or  northern  backwater,  and  crossed  on 
foot  a  low  range  of  hills  separating  it  from  a  shorter  lake  which 
runs  to  Trivandrum,  the  capital.  At  sunset  we  were  on  the 
height  of  land  between  the  two  long  reaches  of  water  ;  to  the 
right  as  we  marched  was  a  magnificent  ocean  prospect.  The 
sun  had  burst  forth  from  masses  of  cloud  on  the  horizon,  and 
in  rich  folds  of  hiU  and  forest  the  land  lay  green  and  golden  in 
the  level  rays,  backed  by  the  glorious  Ghauts,  tree-covered 
to  their  summits.  Looking  back  we  saw  for  many  a  winding 
mile  the  water  track  we  had  followed  from  Trichoor.  A  little 
distance  to  the  westward  of  our  road  lay  the  old  city  of  Anjengo, 
once  a  place  of  importance  in  the  early  Portuguese  trade. 
Some  forty  years  after  this  evening  of  glorious  sunset  views, 
I  read  in  St.  Helena  the  following  entry  in  the  old  island 
records  : — 

'June  21th,  1757. — I,  Mr.  Scott,  Your  Honour's  Resident  at 
Anjengo,  transported  to  this  island  in  the  Clintoji  and  Hector  ten 
Malabar  men  who  it  seems  were  officers  to  the  King  of  Travancore, 
to  serve  you  as  slaves  here,  one  of  which  died  on  the  passage. 
The  other  nine  were  landed  and  clothed.  A  few  days  after  they 
were  sent  into  the  country  five  of  them  hanged  themselves,  and  one 
of  the  remaining  four  has  since  died.  The  other  three  threaten  to 
destroy  themselves  if  they  are  put  to  any  kind  of  work.' 

Well  done  the  British  trader  as  a  missionary  of  civilisation  ! 
This  sample  of  his  pecuHar  methods  occurred  a  hundred  years 
prior  to  my  visit  to  Travancore,  but  in  the  fifty  years  which 
have  since  elapsed  I  have  seen  enough  of  our  missionary 
trader  to  make  me  think  that  he  might  be  still  at  his  old 
methods  of  civilisation,  if  there  had  been  no  French  Revolution 
to  give  him  pause  in  his  calculations.   The  ' Records '  from  which 


A  BIT  OF  FORGOTTEN  HISTORY  51 

the  above  extract  is  taken  contain  many  reverential  observa- 
tions on  humanity  in  general  and  the  Bible  in  particular. 

The  lake  which  lay  south  of  this  ridge  between  the  two 
backwaters  carried  us  into  Trivandrum,  the  capital.  Here, 
after  a  couple  of  days'  delay,  we  quitted  this  delightful  mode 
of  water  transport,  and  held  our  way  by  road  towards  Cape 
Comorin. 

The  monsoon  had  not  yet  broken,  the  sun  was  straight  over 
our  heads,  and  the  heat  sufficiently  great  to  make  night  or  early 
morning  travel  preferable  to  the  march  by  day.  The  country 
was  rich  and  undulating,  mountains  grand  and  bold  to  our 
left,  and  to  our  right  the  sounding  Indian  Ocean.  '  How,'  I 
find  myself  asking  in  my  notebook,  '  has  it  happened  that  the 
All-grasping  Company  kept  their  hands  from  this  fertile  pro- 
vince ?  True,  they  got  eight  lakhs  out  of  it,  and  they  kept  in 
their  hands  the  civil  and  mihtary  power.  I  suppose  the  reason 
was  that  Hyder  Ali  never  conquered  Travancore,  for  we  seem 
to  have  usurped  aU  his  usurpations  as  a  matter  of  course.' 

On  the  second  day  from  Trivandrum  we  reached  a  quaint  old 
place  called  Oodagherry.  A  crumbling  fort  built  round  the 
base  of  a  steep  rocky  hill,  and  half  covered  with  jungle  growth, 
gave  us  shelter  in  one  of  its  bastions,  upon  which  the  travellers' 
bungalow  (that  last  remnant  of  the  old  regal  hospitality  of 
India)  had  been  built.  A  few  miles  south-east  of  this  spot 
began  the  Aroombooli  Pass  in  the  mountains,  the  southern  gate- 
way through  the  Ghauts.  It  was  through  this  gate  that  the 
British  column  marched  in  1809  to  the  conquest  of  Travancore, 
and  here  at  Oodagherry  the  last  effort  of  resistance  was  made 
by  the  Travancoreans.  My  own  corps,  the  69th  Regiment, 
had  formed  the  principal  European  portion  of  this  force.  We 
found  the  tradition  of  the  old  conflict  still  living,  and  some  old 
natives,  having  scraped  away  the  tangled  foliage  below  our 
bastion-bungalow,  showed  us  the  graves  of  Europeans  who 
had  fallen  in  fight  or  died  of  disease  at  this  place  ;  but  the 
rains  of  fifty  years  had  rendered  the  names  upon  the  grave- 
stones quite  illegible. 

Here,  close  to  Cape  Comorin,  and  one  thousand  five  hundred 
miles  northward  and  east  and  west,  from  Orissa  to  the  Arabian 
Sea,  they  lie  in  countless  graves,  these  old,  forgotten,  heroic 
soldiers,  unthanked  and  unthought  of  by  the  millions  to  whom 
their  deaths  gave  untold  riches  and  unequalled  empire. 


CHAPTER   IV 

Down  to  Cape  Comorin,  and  back  to  Madras.     The  scene  of  a 
bygone  massacre.     Starting  for  England.     St.  Helena. 

Before  continuing  our  journey  to  Cape  Comorin  our  little 
party  broke  up,  and  two  of  us  turned  aside  into  the  Ghauts 
to  seek  for  sambhur  and  bison  in  these  wonderful  forests 
which  had  so  long  flanked  our  line  of  march  on  the  eastward, 
revealmg,  when  the  sunset  Hght  struck  fuU  mto  their  countless 
glens  and  '  sholahs,'  innumerable  parks  and  game  preserves. 
The  spot  selected  for  our  incursion  was  caUed  the  Ashamboo 
Vallej^  at  the  extreme  southern  end  of  the  range  of  Ghauts 
and  only  a  few  miles  north  of  Cape  Comorm.  In  this  glen  a 
couple  of  gentlemen  of  the  London  Missionary  Society  had 
built  themselves  two  small  bungalows  for  retreat  in  the  hot 
season  at  a  height  of  between  five  and  six  thousand  feet  above 
sea-level.  Very  steep  and  rough,  a  narrow  pathway  wound 
among  rocks  and  jungle  from  the  lower  level,  and  after  two 
or  three  hours  of  heavy  toil  we  gained  the  entrance  to  the 
valley.  It  was  a  wild  and  picturesque  spot,  looking  right  down 
upon  the  southern  pomt  of  India.  Higher  mountains  enclosed 
the  glen  on  three  sides,  but  to  the  south  the  eye  ranged  over 
the  immense  expanse  of  ocean  which  surrounds  the  cape. 
Two  little  thatched  cottages  stood  on  a  rising  ground  some 
three  or  four  hundied  yards  from  the  entrance  gap  in  the 
hills  ;  through  this  gap  the  gathered  waters  of  the  glen  plunged 
down  the  mountain-side.  The  lower  slopes  of  the  valley  were 
free  of  forest  and  grass-covered  ;  the  higher  ridges  were  seamed 
with  belts  of  deep  green  forest  — '  sholahs,'  as  they  were 
called. 

A  missionary  in  Nagracoil,  at  the  foot  of  the  mountain,  had 
kindly  given  us  the  key  of  his  mountain  cottage,  so  we  marched 
straight  to  it.  The  house  had  not  been  occupied  for  many 
months,  and  the  lock  was  rusty  and  difficult  to  open  ;    but  at 

.   52 


ON  THE  TRACK  OF  THE  BISON  53 

last  entrance  was  effected,  and  then  a  strange  sight  met  the 
first  man  that  went  m.  Underneath  a  charpoy,  or  coir  bed- 
stead, in  one  corner  of  the  little  room,  a  large  brown  mass  was 
seen,  like  a  piece  of  old  bedding  folded  and  put  away.  The 
man  came  running  out,  exclaiming  that  there  was  a  very  big 
serpent  lying  coiled  under  the  empty  bedstead.  We  now  got 
a  side  window  open  to  give  us  more  light,  and  then  it  could 
be  easily  perceived  that  the  bundle  was  a  huge  snake  lying  in 
a  semi-comatose  state.  It  was  not  easy  to  make  out  where 
his  head  was  and  where  his  tail,  but  I  took  the  bulkiest  part 
of  the  coil  for  aim,  and  gave  him  a  bullet,  at  ten  feet  distance, 
full  mto  the  middle  of  it.  Then  a  great  upheaval  and  dis- 
entanglement began,  during  which  I  retreated  to  the  door  to 
await  developments,  for  with  the  smoke  and  the  rumpus  one 
could  not  tell  what  the  next  move  of  the  reptile  would  be. 
When  the  thick  smoke  cleared  out  of  the  little  room  our 
sleeping  python  was  quiet  ;  the  ball  had  broken  his  body  in 
halves  at  its  thickest  part.  He  was  about  twelve  feet  in 
length,  and  thick  as  a  man's  leg.  A  big  figure  8  repeated  itself 
along  his  back  m  a  sort  of  purple  tint  upon  a  brown  back- 
ground. He  had  done  us  one  signal  service  :  there  was  not  a 
rat  in  the  bungalow. 

Next  morning  we  were  out  before  sunrise.  We  first  crossed 
a  steep  ridge  called  '  Bison  Point,'  and  descended  into  another 
valley  ;  again  we  climbed  a  hiU,  and,  crossing  another  glen, 
reached  at  noon  a  place  called  by  our  guide  '  The  Hillmen's 
Valley.'  Here  some  half  a  dozen  httle  black  men  were  collected 
out  of  about  the  same  number  of  little  beehive  huts.  These 
strange  dwarf-like  people  were  the  first  and  last  of  their  kind 
I  met  in  India.  They  were  all  much  under  five  feet  in  height, 
very  black  in  colour,  and  almost  naked.  Their  instinctive 
knowledge  of  the  habits  of  wild  animals,  and  their  power  of 
following  a  trail  across  all  kinds  and  conditions  of  ground,  were 
equalled  by  their  noiseless  and  yet  rapid  methods  of  moving 
through  dense  jungle. 

W^ith  these  men  we  now  plunged  into  some  very  thick 
forests,  and  soon  separated.  I  was  following  my  particular 
little  man  through  this  jungle,  when  suddenly  he  stopped  his 
rapid  steps  and  pointed  to  some  object  in  advance  and  slightly 
to  the  left  of  where  he  stood.     A  step  brought  me  beside  him. 


54     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Following  his  '  point/  I  could  discern,  at  a  distance  of  about 
twenty  or  thirty  paces,  a  huge  head  that  was  looking  at  us 
over  and  through  some  lower  jungle.  It  was  a  bison.  I 
carried  a  short  rifle  which  loaded  at  the  breech  in  some  strange 
fashion  long  ago  obsolete.  I  aimed  at  the  big  head  that  was 
looking  at  us,  but  before  I  could  puU  the  trigger  the  beast 
threw  himself  half  round  from  us.  Dropping  the  muzzle 
below  where  I  thought  must  be  the  level  of  his  shoulder,  I 
fired.  There  was  a  great  crash,  and  I  heard  and  saw  no  more. 
Fearing  the  beast  was  off  down  the  slope,  I  rushed  forward, 
my  black  friend  remaining  where  he  was.  On  his  side  lay  the 
bison,  struggling  hard  to  get  on  his  legs  again.  I  fired  at 
twelve  feet  from  him  two  more  shots  into  his  huge  carcass, 
neither  of  which  seemed  to  have  any  effect ;  but  the  first  wound 
was  mortal,  and  after  a  last  struggle  he  laj''  still.  AU  the  hill- 
men  now  came  together,  and  with  their  keen  knives  the  big 
head  was  severed  from  the  body,  poles  were  cut,  and  we  all 
marched  back,  bringing  the  head  in  triumph  to  the  hut.  The 
bison  was  one  of  the  largest  the  little  hunters  had  ever  seen. 
He  measured  eighteen  hands  at  the  shoulder,  and  his  girth 
was  ten  feet.  We  slept  that  night  in  a  sort  of  porch  belonging 
to  the  largest  of  the  beehives,  and  the  little  men,  and  the  little 
women,  and  their  yet  smaller  children,  were  soon  inside  their 
hives. 

After  nine  days  of  this  wild  life,  but  with  no  sport  to  equal 
that  first  day's,  we  said  farewell  to  our  good  friend  Mr.  Cox, 
who  was  about  to  attempt  coffee-planting  in  Ashamboo  ;  and 
descending  again  to  the  low  country  pursued  our  route  to 
Cape  Comorin.  The  heat  was  now  great,  and  felt  particularly 
trying  to  us  after  the  cool  days  and  really  cold  nights  of  the 
upper  mountains.  The  country  was  now  covered  with  old 
forts  and  ruined  temples.  At  night,  when  it  became  too  dark 
for  the  buUocks  to  make  their  way,  we  would  tie  up  beside  some 
old  temple  and  sleep  until  day  came,  lulled  by  the  sea  winds 
whistling  through  the  broken  masonry  and  dilapidated  figures 
of  Vishnu  or  Parasu  Rama.  The  last-named  Brahminical  deity 
was  the  favourite  god  of  the  Travancoreans  ;  for  they  say  that 
it  was  he  who  created  this  country  by  hurling  his  axe  from 
the  summit  of  the  Ghauts  into  the  ocean,  which  then  came  to 
the  foot  of  the  mountains,  and  that  the  waters,  receding  from 


TO  TUTICORIN  55 

the  space  over  which  the  weapon  sped,  left  bare  the  rich  region 
of  this  province. 

Early  on  the  morning  of  16th  June  we  reached  the  cape. 
Here  India  slanted  quietly  into  the  sea,  in  gently  sloping  shores 
upon  which  the  waves  had  washed  up  three  distinct  kinds  and 
colours  of  sand — puce,  garnet,  and  black.  An  old  bungalow 
stood  at  the  extreme  point,  facing  south,  and  three  big  rounded 
granite  rocks  marked  the  southmost  bit  of  land.  The  bunga- 
low was  very  large  ;  it  had  been  built  by  a  former  resident  at 
Trivandrum,  and  even  at  this  hot  time  of  the  year  was  cooled 
and  freshened  by  winds  that  were  always  from  the  waves. 

From  this  point  our  bullocks  had  their  heads  turned  north- 
east to  Tuticorin,  a  port  on  the  coast  of  Tinnavellj^  facing 
Ceylon.  Slowly  they  dragged  us  through  the  Aroomboli  Pass, 
and  out  once  more  into  the  blinding  levels  eastward  of  the 
Ghauts.     I  look  over  the  old  notebook,  and  read  : — 

'  At  length  we  are  turned  towards  Madras.  I  liked  Comorin 
much  ;  wild,  secluded,  and  scarcely  ever  visited.  What  a  place  for 
study !  The  quaint  old  house  with  the  roar  of  the  surf  echoing 
through  its  lofty  rooms,  and  the  sea  winds  whistling  round  the 
gables,  making  even  noonday,  dreamy.  Halted  for  the  night  six 
miles  from  the  cape,  on  the  frontier.' 

Then  we  pushed  on  through  Tinnavellj%  by  Palamcottah, 
and  a  dozen  other  places  ending  with  '  ary  '  or  '  gully,'  and 
late  on  the  24th  reached  Tuticorin,  after  having  covered  in 
the  last  stage  thirty- three  miles  in  twenty-six  hours.  The 
heat  was  very  great  during  those  seven  days'  travel,  and  the 
country  scorched  and  sandy,  and  with  many  salt  marshes. 
The  day  following  our  arrival  at  Tuticorin  is  marked,  '  Sick 
and  seedy  all  day.'  It  was  really  a  day  of  intense  illness.  The 
Carnatic  climate  had  begun  to  tell  upon  me,  and  for  some 
time  past  a  recurring  day  of  horrible  sickness  came  upon  me 
at  intervals  of  about  a  month.  The  doctors  could  not  make 
out  what  it  was,  and  as  it  usually  happened  that  there  was  a 
fuU  moon  when  these  violent  night  attacks  occurred,  I  had 
begun  to  think  the  moon  was  in  some  way  answerable  for 
them. 

At  Tuticorin  we  hired  a  native  boat  called  a  '  dhoney,'  and 
set  sail  through  the  Gulf  of  Manaar  for  Madras,  following  the 


56     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :  AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

general  line  of  the  coast  northward,  anchormg  at  sunset,  and 
gomg  on  at  sunrise  next  day. 

It  was  a  new  experience  of  Indian  life,  and  therefore  of  great 
interest,  despite  the  general  condition  of  discomfort  that 
necessarily  pervaded  it.  The  '  dhoney  '  was  of  about  twenty 
tons  burden  ;  the  crew — a  whole  family  and  a  couple  of 
followers — was  Mohammedan.  My  companion  and  myself 
had  a  small  after-hold  for  our  mattresses,  and  an  equally 
small  space  on  deck  to  sit  in  during  the  day.  A  big  lateen 
sail  towered  above  and  gave  us  shelter  from  the  sun  ;  forward 
of  the  sail  the  crew,  of  all  ages,  was  huddled  together  on  jute 
bales.  The  craft  itself  was  old,  and  its  planks  were  simply  held 
together  by  coir  ropes  and  stitches. 

On  the  28th  June  we  passed  through  Adam's  Bridge  and 
anchored  at  Paambaun.  Many  islands  were  scattered  about 
these  narrow  seas  between  India  and  Ceylon.  The  coasting 
trade  was  large,  and  native  craft  were  numerous.  Passing 
through  Palk's  Straits  on  the  29th,  our  '  dhoney  '  was  aU  but 
run  down  by  a  two-masted  native  vessel  of  ten  times  our 
tonnage.  I  had  seen  under  the  lateen  sail  this  big  craft  coming 
towards  us  more  than  a  mile  away,  and  had  pointed  her  out 
to  our  '  Ries,'  for  the  courses  on  which  we  were  both  running 
must  bring  us  close  together.  Then  the  sail  had  intervened, 
and  I  ceased  to  watch.  All  at  once  there  was  wild  shouting 
from  our  crew  before  the  mast,  and  a  more  distant  bellowing 
from  the  people  on  the  brig.  How  we  scraped  by  each  other 
I  don't  know  ;  but  amid  aU  the  bellowing  and  gesticulation 
the  big  craft  brushed  past  us  a  few  feet  distant  on  the  starboard 
side,  our  jomt  speeds  giving  a  rate  of  perhaps  twenty  mUes  an 
hour. 

On  the  30th  we  passed  the  tall  lighthouse  on  Point  Calymere 
at  noon,  were  off  Negapatam  at  three,  and  anchored  at  Carrical 
at  sunset  just  as  the  tricolor  was  being  hauled  down  from  the 
French  flagstaff.  Then  to  Pondicherry  for  one  day  on  shore, 
and  to  Madras  on  the  evening  of  4th  Jul3^  It  had  been  well 
timed.  Our  sixty  days'  leave  would  expire  next  morning. 
We  had  travelled  some  twelve  hundred  miles  by  rail,  boat, 
bullock,  bandy,  dhoney,  and  on  foot  in  these  fifty-nine  days. 

At  Madras  we  found  the  orders  for  home  had  arrived  ;  we 
were  to  sail  in  the  following  February. 


A  VISIT  TO  VELLORE  57 

But  there  was  one  spot  in  the  Camatio  which  I  had  not  yet 
seen,  although  it  had  been  of  particular  interest  to  me  since 
I  had  read  the  early  records  of  my  regiment  as  they  were  told 
in  a  large  folio  MS.  volume  in  our  Orderly  Room.  This  spot 
was  Vellore,  a  fortress  and  town  lying  some  eighty  miles  to 
the  west  of  Madras.  Not  even  in  the  cindery  plains  of  the 
Carnatic  is  there  to  be  found  a  place  of  more  intense  heat ; 
red  rocky  hills  surround  it,  the  radiation  from  which  makes 
the  night  almost  as  fevered  as  the  day.  In  the  splendid  fort 
built  by  early  Mohammedan  conquerors  of  the  Carnatic  four 
companies  of  the  69th  Regiment,  together  with  nearly  all  their 
officers  and  families,  were  shot  down  one  hot  night  in  July 
1806  by  the  native  troops  who  were  in  garrison  with  them. 
The  mutiny  of  Vellore  had  been  a  very  notable  occurrence 
in  its  day  ;  it  was  now  entirely  forgotten.  AU  the  greater 
reason  for  going  to  Vellore, 

I  arrived  there  in  the  end  of  Jul}-,  when  it  was  about  as  hot 
as  the  sun  and  the  hills  could  bake  or  make  it.  The  fort,  a 
magnificent  structure  of  early  Moslem  work,  stands  intact 
and  entire,  as  sound  as  the  day  it  was  buUt,  and  it  will  pro- 
bably remain  in  that  condition  for  another  thousand  years. 
The  immense  ditch  is  hewn  out  of  soUd  rock,  and  the  walls 
and  bastions  are  of  great  square  stones  quarried  from  the  ditch. 
Almost  in  the  centre  of  the  large  square  which  is  enclosed  by 
these  massive  walls,  a  very  lofty  Hindoo  pagoda,  covered  with 
sculptures  and  carvmgs  of  Khrislma  and  Rama  and  his  monkey 
armies,  lifts  its  head. 

The  object  of  my  visit  was  to  see  this  scene  of  a  bygone 
massacre,  and  the  graveyard  where  the  bones  of  so  many  old 
soldiers  of  my  regiment  had  been  laid  at  rest.  Strangely 
enough,  I  found  in  the  fort  a  depot  of  old  European  pensioners 
of  the  Indian  army,  and  to  their  little  huts  within  the  fort 
I  first  went.  Men  were  there  whose  service  dated  back  to 
earlier  years  than  even  1806,  and  among  them  there  was  a 
survivor  of  the  battle  of  the  Nile,  the  only  one  I  ever  met. 
He  had  been  a  boy  on  board  a  ship  in  Nelson's  fleet  in  that 
celebrated  fight,  and  had  afterwards  served  in  the  Company's 
service  for  many  years.  He  was  very  old  and  very  deaf  ;  but 
his  brain  was  still  going.  *  What  was  it  like  ?  '  I  roared  into 
his  better  ear.     '  What  was  it  like  ?  '  he  answered,  gaining  a 


58     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

little  time  for  his  reply  before  he  uttered  it.  *  Well,  it  was  like 
the  sound  of  the  water-wheel  of  a  big  mill/  That  was  aU  I 
could  get  from  him. 

Other  old  pensioners  were  tried  as  to  the  mutiny  with 
greater  success.  Two  or  three  of  them  knew  from  hearsay 
all  the  sights  of  that  memorable  night  and  morning  at  VeUore 
in  July  1806.  The  old  barracks  through  the  windows  of  which 
the  mutineers  had  fired  on  our  men  as  they  were  lying 
asleep  in  their  cots  ;  the  rampart  and  bastion  to  which  the 
survivors  had  escaped,  and  which  they  held  until  the  arrival 
of  the  gallant  Gillespie  from  Arcot  at  the  head  of  his  avenging 
cavalry;  the  flagstaff,  from  the  summit  of  which  the  green  flag  of 
Mysore  was  torn  down,  under  a  murderous  fire,  by  two  splendid 
soldiers  of  the  69th  ;  the  spot  on  the  ramparts  over  the  great 
gateway  from  which  Sergeant  Brady  first  descried  the  hero 
GUlespie  riding  far  in  advance  of  his  leading  squadron  ;  the 
gate  blown  in  by  the  fire  of  ten  galloper  guns  of  the  King's  19th 
Dragoons  —  aU  these  places  we  visited  ;  and  finally  we 
reached  the  graveyard  where,  shaded  by  an  old  decaying  tree, 
stood  the  square  mound  of  brick  and  mortar,  without  date  or 
inscription,  and  broken  with  rents,  through  which  wild  plants 
grew  luxuriantly,  marking  the  ground  where  so  many  of  the 
old  regiment  rested. 

It  was  late  at  night  when  I  got  back  to  Madras.  A  sub- 
scription was  soon  set  on  foot,  the  Government  of  Madras 
helped  with  a  grant,  and  six  months  later,  when  the  regiment 
embarked  for  England,  they  left  a  fitting  monument  in  the 
graveyard  at  Vellore  to  the  memory  of  the  gallant  men  who 
lay  there. 

I  was  sorry  then  to  leave  India,  and  I  am  sorry  stiU  that  I 
did  not  labour  more  when  I  was  there  to  know  better  its  people 
and  their  history.  India  is  a  bad  school  for  the  young  soldier 
in  many  of  its  aspects.  There  are  some  of  our  race  to  whom 
contact  with  the  native  spells  retrogression  ;  there  are  others 
to  whom  this  old  civilisation,  these  vast  edifices  of  power 
decayed,  and  wealth  squandered,  and  religion  degenerated, 
teach  lessons  which  are  not  to  be  found  in  the  school-books. 
Cradle  of  aU  things  !  Tomb  of  aU  things  !  Gorgeous,  starved, 
degraded,  defiled,  debauched,  mysterious  East !  I  wish  that  I 
had  studied  you  more  deeply  when  I  dwelt  with  you.     And  yet 


SOLDIER  AND  CIVILIAN  59 

I  can  well  believe  that  we  of  the  old  army,  snipe  shooting,  and 
bison  hunting,  and  serving  and  even  romping  with  the  people, 
knew  more  of  them  and  their  ways  than  did  our  rich  cousins 
of  the  Civil  Service.  The  gulf  between  the  European  fighting 
man  and  the  Indian  is  shallower  than  that  which  divides  the 
ruling  man  from  the  ruled  man.  I  used  to  meet  in  my  wander- 
ings man}'  highly  paid  civilians — commissioners,  collectors, 
judges,  and  all  their  deputies  of  so  many  degrees  ;  but  now, 
looking  back  upon  it  all,  I  think  that  the  men  who  impressed 
me  most  favourably  in  the  Civil  Service  were  those  who  had 
begun  their  careers  in  the  army,  and  had  subsequently  passed 
from  military  life  to  civil  administration.  Wherever  the 
Mohammedan  is  found,  the  love  of  arms  inherent  in  his  nature 
will  make  him  regard  the  man  who  carries  them  in  a  sense 
different  from  that  in  which  he  regards  a  purely  civiUan 
superior.  The  Asiatic  fighting  man  quickly  sees  through  the 
*  superior  person  '  of  our  time.  It  is  Colonel  Newcome  and  the 
Collector  of  Boggly  WaUah  over  again  ;  and  it  will  remain  so 
to  the  end  of  the  chapter,  even  though  the  colonel  should 
always  die  in  a  Cliarterhouse  Hospital. 

I  am  not  quite  sure  that  our  new  superior  person,  governor 
or  collector,  is  a  better  ruler  than  the  old-type  civilian  who  was 
still  to  be  found  in  the  out-stations  in  my  time  in  India. 

Bungay  Smith  was  a  type.  He  possessed  one  marked 
social  accomplishment,  and  to  this  it  was  said  that  he  owed 
his  fortune  in  the  Civil  Service.  He  could  buzz  like  a 
bumble-bee.  One  evening  at  a  reception  in  Government 
House  somebody  mentioned  to  the  governor-general  the 
fact  of  Bungay's  accomplishment.  By  special  desire  he  was 
requested  to  give  a  performance  in  the  role  of  the  bumble- 
bee, a  screen  being  provided  to  render  the  performance  less 
arduous.  From  behind  that  screen  Bungay  poured  forth  such 
variations  of  buzzing  that  the  company  were  delighted  beyond 
the  measure  of  words.  He  buzzed  as  the  bee  approaching  the 
flower  ;  he  buzzed  as  the  bee  leaving  the  flower  ;  he  buzzed  as 
the  bee  who  has  struck  against  your  hat  and  become  violently 
irritated  and  enraged  at  his  own  stupidity ;  and  he  buzzed 
as  the  bee  dreamily  dozing  amid  the  scents  of  linden  trees. 
From  that  moment  his  success  was  assured.  He  went  up 
country  to  a  collectorship,  which  unfortunately  was  in  a  part 


60     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

of  India  where  tigers  were  numerous.  From  a  love  of  nature 
in  the  humbler  lives  of  the  striped  bumble,  he  passed  to  the 
higher  levels  of  striped  animal  life.  He  would  hunt  the  tiger. 
A  collector  finds  many  willing  hands  to  aid  him  in  compassing 
his  wishes.  It  was  soon  arranged  that  a  '  machan,'  or  stage, 
should  be  erected  at  some  spot  frequented  by  the  lord  of  the 
Indian  jungle.  Upon  this  stage  Bungay  was  to  take  his  seat, 
a  bait  or  lure  for  the  tiger  was  to  be  fastened  underneath,  and 
the  remainder  of  the  proceeding  would,  it  was  said,  be  almost 
automatic  :  the  tiger  would  come  to  eat  the  bait,  Bungay  had 
only  to  discharge  bullets  down  upon  him  from  his  '  machan,' 
and  the  desired  end  would  be  achieved.  The  whole  arrange- 
ment fulfilled  all  the  conditions  known  as  *  a  dead  certainty.' 

The  '  machan  '  consisted  of  a  sort  of  strong  double  step- 
ladder,  having  a  stage  at  top  upon  which  Bungay  with  his 
head  shikaree  was  to  be  seated.  Everything  promised  well. 
Before  darkness  closed  over  the  forest  Bungay  and  his  shi- 
karee were  in  position  ;  a  small  buffalo  calf  was  tied  to  a 
stake  underneath  the  structure.  Night  and  silence  followed. 
The  tiger  was  now  the  only  actor  wanting  in  the  piece,  and  he 
had  to  appear  under  the  staging,  and  not  on  it.  It  was  here 
that  the  hitch  came  in. 

It  was  late  when  he  appeared,  with  the  stealth  and  caution 
common  to  his  kind.  There  was  something  suspicious  about 
this  buffalo  calf,  and  what  was  the  meaning  of  this  curious 
wooden  pyramidal  thing  placed  straddling  its  legs  over  the 
jungle  pathway  ?  It  required  examination.  He  approached 
the  scene.  His  back  had  been  giving  him  trouble  in  the  matter 
of  mange  ;  this  sloping  arrangement  of  wood  offered  a  con- 
venient means  of  getting  on  even  terms  with  some  parts  of  his 
own  person  which  had  previously  defied  his  attempts  to  scratch 
them.  AU  at  once  a  thing  never  calculated  upon  by  tiger  or 
collector  happened  ;  there  was  a  crash,  a  roar,  a  going  off  of 
firearms,  the  thud  of  falling  weights  ;  full  upon  the  tiger's  back 
fell  Bungay  straddle-legs.  Away  went  the  tiger,  scared  as  he 
had  never  been  scared  before  ;  tight  to  the  tiger  clung  Bungay, 
roaring  for  all  he  was  worth  ;  shikarees  descended  from 
neighbouring  trees,  firing  promiscuously  in  all  directions  ;  a 
spring  from  the  tiger,  wilder  than  anything  he  had  yet  achieved, 
flung  Bungaj'^  into  the  jungle,  from  whence  his  roars  served 


START  FOR  HOME  61 

to  guide  his  followers  to  the  rescue  of  their  chief.  He  was  taken 
back  to  his  palace  practically  unhurt,  but  with  nerves  so 
shaken  that  severe  mental  complications  ensued.  He  imagined 
himself  a  tiger,  and,  as  before  he  had  hummed  as  a  bee,  he 
now  broke  forth  in  the  roars  of  a  tiger.  After  a  period  of 
prolonged  treatment  these  fits  of  imagination  lessened  in 
severity,  and  the  intervals  between  them  grew  longer.  But 
they  never  quite  left  him,  and  a  powerful  native  servant  always 
accompanied  him  carrying  some  yards  of  strong  light  rope, 
which,  upon  a  warning  note  sounded  by  Bungay,  he  had 
orders  to  tie  quickly  round  his  master's  arms  and  legs,  for 
unfortunately,  under  the  stress  of  the  delusions,  he  felt  impelled 
at  times  to  act  the  part,  as  weU  as  to  utter  it. 

There  was  a  favourite  story  told  in  the  club  at  Madras  of 
how  upon  one  occasion  when  Bungay  was  proceeding  at  night 
in  his  gharry  along  the  Mount  Road,  the  tiger  delusion  sud- 
denly came  upon  him  as  they  approached  the  long  bridge  over 
the  Adyar  River.  Something  had  gone  wrong  with  the  rope, 
and  before  the  servant  could  reach  his  master  the  fit  was  fully 
developed.  The  servant  turned  and  fled  ;  the  master  pursued  ; 
down  they  went  into  the  dry  bed  of  the  wide  river  ;  from  arch 
to  arch  the  chase  went  on  ;  the  servant  hid  himself  behind  a 
buttress  ;  Bungay  growled  on  aU-fours  till  he  found  him  ;  then 
the  sohtudes  rang  with  the  roar  of  the  king  of  the  forest,  as  in 
and  out  of  the  arches  the  master  followed  the  man.  I  have 
forgotten  how  this  strange  rendermg  of  the  poet's  '  Hound  of 
Heaven  '  ended. 

In  the  month  of  February  1864  the  69th  Regiment,  or  what 
was  left  of  it,  embarked  for  England  in  two  vessels  of  the 
famous  line  of  '  cHpper  '  ships  owned  by  Messrs.  Green  of 
London. 

The  right  wing  of  the  regiment  sailed  on  the  10th  February. 
There  were  ten  days  between  the  sailing  of  the  two  vessels,  the 
Trafalgar  and  the  Lord  Warden.  Both  were  noted  sailers, 
and  there  was  much  excitement  as  to  which  of  them  would  do 
the  thirteen  or  fourteen  thousand  miles  in  the  quickest  time. 
Both  were  to  caU  at  St.  Helena,  and  then  to  make  for  Ply- 
mouth. I  was  with  the  left  wing  of  the  regiment  in  the  Lord 
Warden. 

It  is  interesting  to  compare  these  old  logs  of  sailing  ships 


62     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

with  the  '  runs  '  made  by  liners  to-day.  We  kept  a  journal 
on  board  —  the  Homeward  Bound  by  name  —  and  in  its 
pages  I  find  the  record  : — 

*  In  the  first  fortnight  after  leaving  India  we  averaged  only  80 
miles  a  day ;  in  the  second  fortnight  the  average  was  124  miles ; 
the  third  fortnight  saw  us  out  of  the  tropics  and  into  the 
latitudes  of  strong  winds,  and  our  average  increased  to  184  miles ; 
then  when  the  stormy  seas  of  the  Cape  of  Good  Hope  were  entered 
we  ran  up  to  197  miles  in  twenty-four  hours ;  finally  we  attained 
in  the  run  from  St.  Helena  northwards  an  average  of  212  miles, 
and  covered  in  one  day  320  miles  between  the  Azores  and  the 
Lizard.' 

The  only  event  in  the  long  three  months  that  is  worth 
remembering  is  a  short  stay  of  two  days  at  St.  Helena — 15th 
and  16th  April ;  but  they  were  days  so  steeped  in  thoughts  of 
glory  and  of  grief  that  if  I  lived  for  a  thousand  years  they 
would  live  with  me.  Our  ship  had  been  standing  off  the 
island  in  the  late  night,  and  long  before  dawn  I  was  on  deck 
to  catch  the  first  glimpse  of  the  rock.  It  came  in  the  west 
as  the  stars  were  going  out  in  the  east.  Nothing  like  this 
black  berg  is  elsewhere  in  the  world.  Nothing  so  lonely,  so 
gaunt,  so  steep,  so  age-riven,  so  thunderous  with  the  sound 
of  seas,  so  sorrowful  in  the  wail  of  the  winds,  so  filled  with  the 
sense  of  blank  distance,  so  sombre  in  desolation.  Beranger 
said  that  where  some  older  earth  had  been  ruined  in  the  great 
conflict  which  the  powers  of  Good  and  Evil  had  waged,  the 
rock  of  St.  Helena  had  been  left  at  the  special  prayer  of  the 
vanquished  spirits  of  Evil  as  a  memento  of  their  having  been 
once  supreme  upon  earth.  And  he  makes  the  Almighty  ask 
the  reason  for  the  request  thus  made. 

'  I  ask  this  boon,"  answers  the  spirit,  '  in  order  that  one  day 
in  a  far-distant  age  of  this  new  world  there  may  be  brought  to 
that  dark  ocean  rock  a  mortal  all  but  godlike  in  his  genius, 
who  shall  undergo  there  upon  that  black  altar  a  lingering  death 
at  the  hands  of  evil  men.' 

I  got  on  shore  at  the  earliest  possible  hour,  and  was  soon 
riding  up  the  steep  road  that  led  from  Jamestown  to  the  tomb 
and  to  Longwood.  At  St.  Helena  one  quickly  masters  the 
chapter  of  St.  Helena.     These  gigantic  rock  walls,  these  im- 


AT  LONGWOOD  63 

passable  precipices,  and  all  this  environment  of  charred  deso- 
lation in  the  midst  of  which  the  miserable  farmhouse  is  perched, 
gamit  and  alone,  tell  in  the  space  of  a  three-mile  ride  the  entire 
story  of  the  captivity.  When  the  summit  level  above  the 
tomb  is  reached  at  Hutt's  Gate,  the  '  altar  '  craved  of  the 
Demon  lies  outspread  before  the  traveller,  and  the  word 
'  prison  '  is  read  in  gigantic  characters  on  sea  and  sky,  on  peak 
and  precipice  of  that  grey,  gloomy  circumference,  in  the  centre 
of  which  is  Longwood.  Here  all  the  names  known  in  the 
history  of  these  five  or  six  years  of  suffering  cease  to  have  a,ny 
individual   meaning,     '  Rupert's,'    '  Deadwood,'    '  Longwood,' 

*  the  Flagstaff,'  '  the  Bam,'  '  the  Valley  of  Silence,'  disappear, 
and  there  only  remains  the  all-pervading  sense  of  an  inner 
prison,  surrounded  by  even  more  impassable  boundaries  of  lava, 
chasm,  and  rock  wall  than  the  ocean  and  the  outer  sea  face  of 
the  island  had  already  provided. 

I  had  stood  by  the  tomb,  had  seen  the  house,  and  looked 
long  on  the  features  of  the  marble  bust  within  the  black-railed 
space  which  marks  the  spot  where  the  Mttle  camp  death- 
bedstead  stood  on  the  5th  May  1821  ;  and  now  it  was  time  to 
leave  Longwood.  Perhaps  it  was  because  one  had  asked  the 
French  sergeant  who  was  in  charge  questions  which  he  was  not 
able  to  answer,  or  perhaps  from  some  other  reason,  but  as  I 
was  about  to  depart  he  volunteered  the  mformation  that  there 
was  still  living,  at  only  a  little  distance  from  Longwood  House, 
an  old  soldier  who  had  been  on  the  island  during  the  captivity. 

'  Monsieur  might  care  to  see  him  ?  ' 

'  Yes,  very  much.' 

'  He  lives  close  by,  monsieur,  in  a  little  hut,  there  below  the 
dip  of  the  ridge  between  us  and  the  gate  of  Longwood.' 

Five  minutes  later  I  was  at  the  hut.  An  old  man  was  at 
spade-work  in  a  little  garden. 

'  Well,  old  friend,  they  tell  me  you  were  here  in  Bonaparte's 
time,'  I  say,  speaking  very  loud,  for  he  is  deaf.  '  Can  you  tell 
me  anything  about  him  ?  ' 

He  looks  up  from  his  work,  leans  on  his  spade  handle,  and 
says  nothing,     I  put  the  question  again  in  a  louder  voice. 

'  Is  it  Bony  ye  mane  ?  '  he  says,  in  an  accent  which,  not- 
withstanding a  lapse  of  forty  or  fifty  years,  still  tells  of  Ireland, 

*  To  be  shurc  I  remember  him,  and  so  I  ought,  for  manj'  the 


64     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

day  and  the  night  I  mounted  guard  over  him,  and  stood  sentry 
beyond  the  gum  trees  there  by  the  house/ 

*  How  long  have  you  been  here  ?  '  I  ask. 

'  Fifty  years  come  October  next,'  he  says.  '  I  came  out  with 
the  53rd  Regiment,  and  when  it  left  to  go  to  India  I  exchanged 
into  the  66th,  and  I  married  and  settled  here.  Did  ye  ever 
hear  tell  of  SUgo  ?  '  he  went  on. 

'  Yes,  often." 

'  WeU,  that  was  my  country.  I  wonder  now  how  it 's 
getting  on,  and  if  there  's  any  of  my  people  living.' 

So  anxious  was  I  to  follow  the  thread  of  the  guard  and 
sentry  memory  that  I  could  at  the  moment  have  consigned 
Sligo  to  the  deepest  bottom  of  its  own  bogs  ;  but  it  was  wiser 
to  dissemble  a  little,  so  after  a  few  words  about  Sligo  I  got 
the  old  fellow's  memory  back  again  to  Longwood,  the  guards, 
the  sentries,  and  the  old  times  of  the  captivity  ;  and  as  a 
starting-point  I  asked  him  where  the  line  of  sentries  used 
to  be  placed  by  day  and  by  night. 

'  The  sintries  is  it  ?  '  he  says.  '  There  's  the  field  over  where 
the  sheep  are  grazing  ;  that 's  where  the  big  camp  stood.  By 
day  the  sintries  were  kept  below  the  ridge,  along  the  far  side 
of  the  valley  '  (pointing  across  the  depths  of  Fisher's  Ravine), 
'  and  by  night  they  were  drawn  in,  and  they  closed  up  around 
the  house.' 

'  Did  you  ever  see  the  Emperor  ?  ' 

'  Who  ?  ' 

'  Bonaparte.' 

'  Yes,  often.  I  used  to  see  him  of  times  working  m  the 
garden  at  the  house,  or  throwing  crumbs  to  the  fish  in  the  pond 
near  the  door.  When  he  got  too  bad  to  walk  out  in  the  garden, 
I  used  to  see  him  sometimes  in  the  house  ;  for  I  was  told  off  to 
look  after  the  Chinamen  that  were  employed  there,  and  to 
see  that  they  fetched  up  the  water  every  day  from  the  spring 
down  by  Torbutts,  where  the  tomb  is  now.' 

Then  we  spoke  of  the  house  and  the  dwarf  gum  trees  that 
grew  on  the  level  ground  just  above  his  cabin. 

'  There  were  more  of  them  there  in  them  days,'  he  said, 
'  but  the  storm  that  blew  the  night  before  he  died — the  awfullest 
wind  that  was  ever  on  the  island — ^knocked  most  of  them  down.' 

Then,  after  some  other  talk  about  St.  Helena,  his  mind 


WARS  AND  RUMOURS  OF  WARS  65 

wandered  ofE  again  to  Sligo  ;  and  he  soon  ceased  speaking. 
The  old  man's  brain  was  tired. 

I  could  have  remained  a  long  while  there,  but  it  would  not 
have  been  of  any  use.  This  curious,  old,  time-rusted  link  in 
the  chain  between  past  and  present,  dressed  in  a  soldier's 
tattered  coat,  had  said  his  say  ;  and  the  well  of  his  memory 
had  run  dry.  What  things  had  these  old  eyes  looked  at  ! 
Old  friend,  good-bye. 

I  mounted  and  rode  away,  thinking  over  the  words,  '  closed 
up  around  the  house.'  All  these  vast  precipices,  from  the  edges 
of  which  the  passer-by  recoils  in  instinctive  horror  ;  these 
gloomy  rampart  rocks  ;  all  these  camps  of  soldiers — one  there 
at  Deadwood,  one  hundred  j^ards  in  front  of  the  farmhouse ; 
another  at  Hutt's  Gate,  where  the  sawback  ridge  begins  which 
just  suffices  in  its  width  at  the  top  to  carry  the  road  on  to 
Longwood  between  the  prodigious  rents  in  the  earth  plunging 
down,  one  thousand  feet  in  depth,  below  the  narrow  roadway  ; 
these  were  not  wards  and  guards  and  barriers  sufficient,  placed 
though  they  were  with  thousands  of  leagues  between  them 
and  the  nearest  land,  but  the  Une  of  sentries  must  '  close  up 
at  sunset  '  around  the  walls  of  the  miserable  house  itself. 

The  news  that  reached  us  at  St.  Helena  was  full  of  interest. 
The  Civil  War  in  America  seemed  to  be  drawing  to  a  close  ; 
but  a  Kttle  speck  of  conflict  was  showing  in  Northern  Europe. 
Two  great  Powers  had  invaded  little  Denmark.  To  us  poor 
homeward-bound  soldiers,  anxious  for  service,  it  seemed  that 
this  wanton  and  cowardly  proceeding  must  produce  the 
general  war  which  some  of  us,  at  least,  wished  for.  I  find  in 
the  pages  of  our  little  sea  journal  some  lines  entitled  '  War's 
Whisper,'  the  concluding  verse  of  which  ran  thus  : — 

'Ho  !  babblers  of  "peace,"  ye  who  boasted  in  pride 
That  the  sword  in  its  scabbard  for  ever  was  tied ! 
Did  ye  hear  that  low  murmur  waft  over  the  main 
Its  tidings  of  battle  in  the  land  of  the  Dane  1 ' 

But  alas  for  poetic  flight  and  bellicose  imaginations  !  No 
sword  leaped  from  scabbard  either  in  France  or  England,  and 
the  massacre  of  Diippel  passed  unnoticed  by  either  of  the 
Powers  whose  one  great  chance  in  modem  history  it  was. 
These  things  do  not  happen  twice.     Louis  Napoleon  might 

£ 


66     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

easily  have  saved  Sedan  and  Paris  had  he  then  struck  for  the 
Dane,  and  there  would,  in  all  human  probability,  have  been  no 
'  Dreadnought '  scare  to-day  had  there  been  a  single  soldier- 
statesman  m  England  in  that  year  1864. 

There  was  no  Suez  Canal  in  1864,  and  the  roadstead  at 
St.  Helena  had  always  plenty  of  shipping  in  it,  vessels  taking 
in  food  and  water  on  their  homeward  route  from  India  and 
China.  At  the  time  of  our  visit  it  held  other  craft — American 
whalers  from  the  Antarctic  hiding  from  the  Alabama,  which 
was  still  at  work  of  destruction  in  various  seas.  I  went  on 
board  one  of  these  whalers.  She  was  three  months  out  from 
Maine  ;  her  captain  and  crew  in  beards  and  clothes  like  so 
many  Robinson  Crusoes.  It  was  early  morning.  The  captain 
insisted  upon  my  having  breakfast  with  him — a  black  bottle 
of  terrible  spirit  and  a  plate  of  hard-tack  biscuits,  on  a  table 
that  had  been  lubricated  with  blubber.     It  was  sufficient. 

Our  sister  ship,  the  Trafalgar,  conveying  the  right  wing  of 
the  regiment,  had  gained  a  week  upon  us  in  the  run  from 
Madras  to  St.  Helena.  She  had  left  the  island  with  a  clear 
seventeen  days'  start.  The  race  home  now  seemed  hopeless 
for  us. 

We  left  St.  Helena  with  the  south-east  trade  blowmg  strong, 
and  it  bowled  us  along  before  it  durmg  the  next  sixteen  days. 
No  halt  from  calms  on  the  Line  ;  the  northern  tropic  proved 
equally  propitious,  and  the  '  roaring  forties  '  sent  us  flying  along 
from  stormy  Corvo  to  the  Cornish  coast  in  glorious  style. 
On  21st  May  we  anchored  at  Plymouth,  ninety  days  out  from 
Madras.  An  hour  later  a  full-rigged  ship  was  visible  on  the 
horizon  from  beyond  the  Eddystone  Lighthouse.  Our  captain, 
who  had  only  one  eye  (but,  like  Nelson's,  it  was  a  very  good 
one)  laid  his  glass  upon  the  distant  vessel.  '  It 's  the  Trafalgar,' 
he  said  ;  and  so  it  was.  That  three  hundred  and  twenty  mile 
day  on  the  17th  had  done  its  work  ;  we  had  gained  some 
seventeen  days  upon  our  sister  ship  in  the  run  from  St.  Helena. 

When  we  entered  the  Channel  a  thing  foretold  by  the  ship's 
officers  happened.  We  carried  some  seventy  or  eighty  invalid 
soldiers  from  India,  the  wrecks  of  the  Carnatic  climate.  '  You 
wiU  see  many  of  these  men  die  when  we  get  near  the 
English  coast,'  the  officers  and  doctor  used  to  say.  So  it  fell 
out.     We  buried  several  of  these  poor  feUows  almost  in  sight 


ENGLAND  AGAIN  67 

of  the  Lizard.     For  them  the  '  chops  of  the  Channel '  had  a 
sinister  meaning. 

On  22nd  May  the  two  sisters,  now  in  companj'^,  sailed  before 
a  delightful  westerly  breeze  along  the  coasts  of  Devon,  Dorset, 
and  Hampshire  to  Portsmouth.  Very  fresh  and  beautiful  it 
all  looked  ;  hawthorn  blossom  holding  out  welcome  to  us  ; 
scents  of  spring  from  the  shores,  and  May-green  on  the  hills 
for  the  rest  and  refreshment  of  our  sun-seared  eyes.  To 
understand  all  the  loveliness  of  an  English  spring  you  should 
spend  a  few  summers  in  the  Camatic. 


CHAPTER   V 

Aldershot.     Visit  to  the  Belgian  battlefields.    Afterthoughts  on  Waterloo. 

We  were  stationed  at  Gosport  after  arrival,  and  then  we  went 
to  Aldershot.  These  south  of  England  town  garrisons  made 
bad  stations  for  soldiers  lately  arrived  from  abroad  ;  that 
harpy  the  Jew  jeweller,  and  the  betting  or  gambling  man 
have  there  a  wide  field  for  the  exercise  of  their  various  greeds, 
wiles,  and  villanies.  Before  we  were  a  year  at  home  half  of 
our  officers  were  in  debt,  and  many  of  them  had  to  exchange  or 
leave  the  service. 

After  a  short  leave  of  absence  at  home,  I  was  sent  with  a 
party  of  men  to  Hythe  to  learn  out  of  books  that  theory  of 
musketry  in  the  practice  of  which  I  was  already  no  mean 
proficient.  But  Hythe  was  no  exception  to  the  rule  which  I 
have  found  existmg  in  every  part  of  the  world — namely,  that 
a  man  will  find  something  of  interest,  something  that  is  worth 
knowmg  or  seeing,  no  matter  what  the  spot  may  be  on  the 
earth's  surface  where  fortune  has  cast  him. 

Visiting  Dover  one  day,  I  turned  into  the  Ship  Hotel  for 
lunch.  At  a  table  in  one  corner  of  the  public  room  four  men 
were  sitting.  The  waiter  informed  me  that  they  were  officers 
of  the  American  Federal  cruiser  Kearsarge,  which  was  then 
lying  in  the  harbour.  Over  at  Calais  lay  also  in  harbour,  and 
afraid  to  stir  from  it,  the  Confederate  cruiser  Alabama.  The 
Federal  agent  in  Calais  kept  the  captam  of  the  Kearsarge 
constantly  informed  of  the  doings  of  his  rival.  The  Kearsarge 
lay  in  Dover  with  steam  always  up.  The  truth  was,  the 
Alabama's  game  was  up,  unless  some  extraordinary  freak  of 
fortune  should  again  befriend  her,  for  the  Kearsarge  had  '  the 
legs  of  her,'  and  whether  the  brave  Semmes  headed  out  into 
the  North  Sea,  or  went  down  Channel,  he  must  be  overhauled 
by  his  enemy. 

68 


ALDERSHOT  IN  1865  69 

Suddenly  the  door  of  the  coffee-room  opened,  and  four 
gentlemen,  dressed  in  rather  peculiar  suits  of  '  mufti,'  entered 
the  room.  They  stopped  short,  stared  hard  at  the  occupants 
of  the  table  in  the  corner,  turned  abruptly  round,  and  left  the 
room.  They  were  officers  of  the  Alahama,  who  had  crossed 
from  Calais  by  the  mail-boat  that  mornmg,  probably  to  have 
a  look  at  their  enemy  from  the  pier.  A  couple  of  weeks  later 
the  Confederate  slipped  out  from  Calais  at  night,  and  with 
something  of  a  start  made  her  way  down  Channel ;  but  the 
Kearsarge  was  soon  upon  her  tracks. 

Cherbourg  afforded  a  last  refuge  for  the  little  warship  whose 
career  in  all  the  oceans,  and  even  in  the  comers  of  seas,  had 
cost  the  Northern  States  such  enormous  loss.  When  the  time 
limit  was  up  she  had  to  put  to  sea.  A  few  miles  off  Cherbourg 
the  two  cruisers  met  for  the  first  and  last  time.  It  was  all  over 
with  the  Alabama  in  an  hour.  Semmes  and  his  crew  were 
picked  up  by  an  English  steam  yacht — I  have  forgotten  her 
name — but  curiously  enough  she  had  steamed  close  alongside 
for  many  miles,  a  month  or  two  earlier,  when  the  two  clipper 
ships  were  racing  each  other  along  the  south  coast  of  England 
from  Plymouth  to  Dartmouth. 

Early  in  1865  we  moved  to  Aldershot,  then  in  a  very  different 
condition  from  what  it  is  to-day.  Great  expanses  of  sand 
stretched  from  beyond  the  Long  Valley  up  to  the  doors  of  the 
wretched  huts  in  which  we  were  housed.  All  the  verdure  and 
foliage  which  chiefly  owe  their  origin  to  the  labours  of  Colonel 
Laffan  of  the  Engineers  were  then  unknown,  and  when  a  south- 
west wind  blew  one  might  have  imagined  that  Caesar's  Camp 
was  a  koppje  m  the  Sahara. 

But  the  thing  that  made  the  Aldershot  of  1865  a  place  of 
delight  for  memory  to  recall  was  the  individuality  of  the 
military  characters  one  met  there.  Not  one  solitary  vestige 
of  these  old  vanished  heroes  can  now  be  found  in  our  army. 
Truly  can  it  be  said  that  the  entire  military  type  and  bearing 
of  that  time  is  gone,  '  lock,  stock,  and  barrel.'  The  stock  still 
clung  to  the  soldier's  neck,  the  lock  and  barrel  were  of  the 
old  percussion  muzzle-loading  model ;  '  fire-lock  '  it  was  still 
called  by  the  older  drill  sergeants. 

Our  regiment  '  lay,'  as  the  expression  used  to  be,  in  the 
North  Camp,  and  very  imcomfortable  '  lying  '  it  was  for  all 


70     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

concerned.  When  I  marched  the  company  to  which  I  belonged 
to  the  group  of  huts  assigned  to  us,  I  heard  one  of  the  old 
twenty-one-j'ear  men  mutter  as  he  entered  the  hut,  '  Twenty 

years  all  round  the  worruld,  and  in  a cowshed  at  the  end 

of  it/ 

All  the  drills,  movements,  and  manoeuvres  were  exactly 
what  they  had  been  fifty  years  before.  There  might  just  as 
well  have  been  no  Crimean  War,  no  Mutiny,  no  anything. 
Most  of  the  old  officers  swore  as  their  ancestors  had  sworn  on 
the  fields  of  Flanders  one  hundred  years  earlier.  I  think  the 
men  liked  them  all  the  better  on  that  account.  The  general  in 
command  was  a  splendid  veteran.  It  was  he  who,  a  quarter 
of  a  century  earlier,  had  told  his  men  at  Meeanee  to  '  turn  the 
fire-locks '  as  they  drove  their  bayonets  into  the  enemy  when 
these  brave  Belooch  swordsmen  were  hacking  at  the  Twenty- 
Second  over  the  levelled  bayonets.  He  had  borne  at  Inker- 
mann  the  worst  pressure  of  the  Russian  attack  in  the  early 
hours  of  the  fight.  When  the  first  reinforcement — Cathcart's 
Division — came  up,  that  general  had  ridden  forward  to  ask  to 
what  part  of  the  field  he  should  direct  his  troops.  '  Anywhere 
you  like,  my  dear  sir  ;  you  '11  find  plenty  of  fighting  all  round.' 
And  indeed  he  found  it,  for  within  a  couple  of  hours  Cathcart 
and  about  half  of  his  division  were  dead  on  the  slopes  that  lay 
to  the  right  rear  of  the  famous  Sand-bag  Redoubt. 

I  can  still  see  this  old  hero  sitting  his  charger  on  the  top  of 
a  knoU  over  the  Basingstoke  Canal,  across  which  the  engineers 
had,  in  manoeuvre  language,  '  thrown  a  pontoon  bridge ' 
(two  pontoons  and  twenty  planks).  Over  this  structure  our 
brigade  had  to  go,  and  the  great  point  was  that  they  should 
not  keep  step  as  they  crossed,  but  the  poor  feUows  had  been 
so  mercilessly  trained  to  keep  step  that  they  couldn't  break 
it  to  save  their  lives  ;  and  as  the  canal  was  only  about  four 
feet  deep  in  the  centre  of  its  twenty  or  thirty  feet  width,  it 
didn't  matter  a  pin  whether  they  fell  in  or  not. 

But  from  the  general's  excitement  you  might  have  thought 
that  the  operation  was  quite  on  a  par  with  that  of  the  Russians 
retreating  over  their  bridge  of  boats  from  the  south  to  the  north 
side  of  Sebastopol.  Up  we  came  to  the  canal  in  solid,  serried 
ranks.  The  more  he  swore  at  us,  the  more  his  staff  roared  at 
us  shouting  '  break  step,'  the  more  our  men  stepped  '  as  one 


ARMY  ANECDOTES  71 

man/  as  they  had  been  taught  and  drilled  and  bullied  into 
doing  for  years  :  tramp,  tramp,  tramp.  I  can  never  forget 
the  sight  of  that  fine  old  soldier  ;  the  reins  dropped  on  his 
charger's  neck,  his  hands  uplifted  as  far  as  they  could  go,  and 
a  whole  torrent  of  imprecations  pouring  from  under  his  snow- 
white  moustache.  Two  ladies  who  had  ridden  out  with  the 
staff  thought  it  prudent  to  retire  from  the  scene.  The  two 
pontoons  stood  it  all. 

Among  the  old  ofl&cers  of  lesser  rank  the  one  who  gave  us 
youngsters  the  most  unvarying  entertainment  was  the  colonel 
of  a  distinguished  Fusilier  battalion,  a  North  Briton.  All  the 
manoeuvre  formations  were  then  in  close  order  ;  a  modern 
dynamite  shell  bursting  in  a  brigade  would  inevitably  have 
ended  the  collective  life  and  entire  martial  capacity  of  that 
military  unit.  This  view  of  the  question,  however,  had  not 
occurred  to  any  of  our  superiors  ;  and  to  us  subalterns  in  the 
ranks  these  close  formations  had,  at  least,  the  merit  of  enabling 
us  to  get  all  the  mounted  officers  of  three  or  four  battalions 
within  easy  range  of  our  ears  and  eyes.  We  knew,  in  fact, 
everything  that  was  going  on  in  the  brigade.  Old  Colonel 
R.  S.  was  our  central  pomt  of  interest.  He  had  a  profound 
contempt  and  dislike  for  a  staff  officer,  and  in  this  feeling  we 
were  with  him  to  a  man. 

An  A.D.C.  or  a  Deputy  A.D.C.  would  ride  up  to  the  brigade, 
salute,  dehver  his  orders,  wheel  his  horse  round,  and  gallop 
away.  Colonel  R.  S.,  being  a  very  senior  officer,  was  fre- 
quently in  command  of  the  brigade.  He  would  never  move  a 
muscle  as  the  staff  officer  went  through  his  message.  He 
would  then  gravely  turn  to  one  of  the  old  '  fizzer  men,'  as  they 
were  called  (pensioners  who  had  the  privilege  of  hawking 
ginger-beer  among  the  troops),  and  ask  him,  '  What  did  the 
d f  ule  say  ?  ' 

*  He  said,  yer  honour,  that  the  brigade  was  to  move  to  the 
right.' 

'  Did  he  ?     Third  brigade,  fours  left.' 

Or,  again,  he  would  on  occasion,  when  he  had  had  words 
with  the  messenger  of  movement,  take  all  the  men  into  his 
confidence  by  turning  in  his  saddle,  and  remarking  with  a  most 
comical  expression  of  face,  '  He  '11  nae  puzzle  the  Fusihers, 
I  can  tell  ye.'     And  indeed,  I  am  quite  sure  that  nothing  which 


72     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

the  most  conceited  young  staff  oflSicer  could  do  would  ever 
have  '  puzzled '  that  splendid  body  of  men.  They  would 
have  died  to  a  man  with  that  old  Scotsman. 

I  had  one  resource  at  Aldershot  of  inestimable  value  to  me. 
It  was  the  Prince  Consort's  library.  Many  an  hour  I  spent  in 
that  cool  retreat  reading  of  the  wars  on  land  and  sea,  and  of  the 
men  who  fought  them.  By  hook  or  crook  I  must  go  to  Belgium, 
and  see  some  of  the  scenes  themselves.  The  few  pounds  I  had 
put  together  in  India  were  now  gone.  Aldershot  was  an 
expensive  station  at  that  time,  for  regiments  and  battalions 
were  constantly  arriving,  and  the  reputation  of  the  '  Old  69th  ' 
for  hospitality  had  to  be  kept  up,  literally  at  all  costs.  But 
I  managed  to  get  together  about  twenty  pounds,  and  one  fine 
evening  I  was  off,  knapsack  on  shoulder,  for  Lille,  intending 
to  leave  the  train  at  Tournay,  and  begin  to  work  the  ground 
on  foot  from  that  place. 

I  reached  Tournay  early  on  the  second  morning,  picked  up 
a  guide  on  the  steps  of  the  cathedral,  and  was  soon  on  the  road 
to  Fontenoy.  The  guide  was  a  ghastly  failure.  He  professed 
to  know  the  battlefields  around  Tournay,  but  I  soon  found 
he  knew  only  the  public-houses.  '  You  know  the  field  of 
Fontenoy  ?  '  I  said  as  we  cleared  the  old  town.  Certainly  he 
knew  Fontenoy,  he  answered ;  was  not  his  father  in  that 
battle,  and  did  not  the  Emperor  decorate  him  when  it  was 
over  ?  Astonished  by  this  information  I  merely  said,  '  Go 
ahead." 

It  was  a  very  hot  afternoon,  the  road  was  deep  in  dust,  and 
the  knapsack  still  a  new  burden  to  my  shoulders.  Whenever 
we  passed  a  beer  shop  he  looked  longmgly  at  it ;  but  I  held 
steadily  on,  taking  a  most  malicious  satisfaction  in  the  situation 
that  was  now  developing,  for  I  soon  saw  that  the  feUow  was 
soft  as  butter.  At  last  he  craved  a  halt  and  a  drink.  These 
I  gave  him,  even  though  he  still  adhered  to  the  story  of  the 
decoration  of  his  father  on  the  field  of  Fontenoy  by  the  Emperor 
himself.  Then  I  thought,  '  Are  we  not  now  in  the  Cockpit 
of  Europe  ?  '  There  were  so  many  battles  fought  here  that 
this  man  ras^j  well  have  got  a  bit  mixed  among  them,  and 
perhaps  in  this  matter  of  the  decoration  he  had  only  inherited 
an  ancestral  antipathy  to  the  truth.  So  we  went  again  along 
the  dusty  road. 


IN  THE  'COCKPIT  OF  EUROPE'  73 

It  was  getting  towards  sunset  when  we  approached  Fontenoy. 
I  had  a  map  of  the  ground,  and  was  on  the  lookout  for  the 
wood  of  Barri.  Passing  that,  we  entered  the  scene  of  the 
battle.  A  large  country  waggon,  full  of  women  and  girls 
returning  from  work,  came  along.  '  Fontenoy  ?  '  I  asked 
inquiringly.  They  laughed,  and  pointed  away  to  my  left 
front,  where  the  ridge  bent  dowTi  into  lower  ground,  and  over 
the  curve  could  be  seen  a  church  spire,  some  white  houses,  and 
trees.  They  asked  me  to  join  them,  and  made  room  for  me 
in  the  waggon,  laughing  and  talking,  under  large  lace  or  fringe- 
bordered  caps,  all  the  while.  I  was  clearly  a  puzzle  to  them  ; 
but  all  the  same  they  seemed  disposed  to  accept  my  presence 
as  that  of  an  old  friend.  Another  time  I  might  have  accepted 
the  seat  offered  in  their  midst,  but  as  there  was  less  than  an 
hour's  Ught  in  the  sky  I  thought  it  wiser  to  keep  my  feet,  and 
made  straight  for  Fontenoy.  The  ground  was  all  familiar 
to  me,  for  I  had  studied  the  map  of  it  well.  I  paid  off  my 
guide.  He  had  brought  me  to  Fontenoy,  even  though  he  had 
failed  to  convince  me  of  the  decoration  bestowed  upon  his 
father  in  the  battle. 

On  every  side  where  the  land  was  clear  of  wood  the  ground 
lay  open  and  unfenced  :  stubble  interspersed  with  grass.  Three 
miles  away  on  the  right,  Antoiag  showed  its  church  top  above 
the  valley  of  the  Scheldt  ;  then  the  higher  ground  upon  which 
the  French  army  had  stood  curved  round  towards  Fontenoj^ 
about  two  miles,  and  then  ran  in  on  the  same  easy  circle  to 
Barri,  the  semicircle  making  altogether  about  four  miles  along 
its  circumference  from  the  wood  of  Barri  on  the  left  to  Antoing 
on  the  right. 

In  front  of  the  village  of  Fontenoy  the  ground  dropped 
quickly  into  the  valley  of  Voyon.  Never  was  there  easier  field 
upon  which  to  identify  the  events  which  took  place  there  on 
the  11th  May  1745.  Save  that  the  French  redoubts  have 
long  ago  been  levelled  by  the  ploughshare,  everything  is  un- 
changed. Between  the  village  of  Fontenoy  and  the  wood  of 
Barri  all  the  fighting  took  place.  There  Ligonier  led  on  his 
column  of  fourteen  thousand  English  and  Hanoverian  troops 
and  twenty  guns  into  the  left  centre  of  the  French  position. 
Shot  at  by  cannon,  charged  by  cavalry,  fired  mto  by  infantry, 
they  go  slowly  forward,  until  meeting  the  French  Guards  the 


74     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

two  columns  exchange  first  compliments  and  then  volleys, 
until  half  of  the  whole  are  down  in  the  young  corn. 

The  battle  began  at  five  in  the  morning,  and  it  was  all 
over  by  one  o'clock.  At  noon  the  aUies  were  in  full  retreat 
on  Ath.  Some  fifteen  thousand  dead  and  wounded  covered 
this  gently  rolling  ground.  History  has  given  half  a  dozen 
versions  of  this  once  famous  fight ;  but  what  is  assured  as 
fact  is  that  Cumberland's  column  under  Ligonier  had  all  but 
won  victory  when  it  was  wrested  from  their  grasp  by  the 
terrible  onslaught  of  Saxe's  reserve  troops,  among  which  six 
regiments  of  Irish  infantry,  under  Count  Lally,  formed  the 
most  potent  body  and  struck  the  most  decisive  blows. 

I  made  my  way  across  the  field  of  Antoing  as  the  dusk  was 
gathering  over  Fontenoy,  and  a  white  mist  was  coming  up  from 
the  Voyon  Valley,  creeping  like  a  great  ghost  of  battle  across 
the  ridge  where  this  wild  slaughter  had  been  wrought.  The 
partridges  were  calling  briskly  to  each  other  in  the  cool  twihght ; 
the  smoke  of  supper  was  going  up  from  many  cottage  chimneys. 
How  was  I  to  fare  in  that  way  at  Antoing  ?  I  struck  straight 
for  that  Uttle  old  Flemish  town,  and  at  the  inn  kept  by  Monsieur 
and  Madame  Roger  Dubois  the  question  was  most  satisfactorily 
solved.  After  a  little  preparatory  delay,  a  fillet,  a  partridge, 
a  salad,  an  omelette,  a  bottle  of  Bordeaux,  grapes,  coffee,  and 
a  petit  verre — what  more  could  mortal  ask  on  the  evening  of 
a  hot  day  ?  Heroes  of  Fontenoy,  old,  forgotten,  long- waist- 
coated  grenadiers  of  England,  France,  and  Ireland — Saxe, 
Cumberland,  Ligonier,  d'Auteroche,  Richelieu,  and  LaUy — 
I  pledge  aU  your  memories  in  silence  as  the  clock  in  the  old 
church  tower  outside  strikes  the  hour  of  nine  !  To  you  in 
particular,  Madame  Roger  Dubois,  I  hft  my  glass  and  take  off 
my  hat  !  If  history  tells  truth,  your  husband's  very  remarkable 
namesake,  the  Archbishop  of  Cambray,  received  a  cardinal's 
hat  through  the  friendly  intervention  of  George  the  First, 
whose  son  was  to  lose  this  fight  at  Fontenoy  some  few  years 
later.  Well,  if  the  first  George  was  to  get  a  cardinal's  hat 
for  anj^body,  it  was  perhaps  meet  that  it  should  have  been  for 
that '  httle  thin  meagre  man  with  the  pole-cat  visage,  in  whom 
all  the  vices  .  .  .  contend  for  mastery  ' ;  but  perhaps  the  royal 
victor  of  Fontenoy  would  have  had  a  better  place  in  history  to- 
day had  he  hanged  him. 


FIELDS  OF  MALPLAQUET  AND  JEMAPPES       75 

The  following  day  came  oppressively  warm,  and  I  had  a 
long  march  before  me.  I  was  to  sleep  at  Mons,  for  I 
wished  to  see  the  field  of  Jcraappes,  that  opening  scene 
of  the  conquering  revolution,  and  another  great  field  of 
former  fight  which  lay  near  Mons — Malplaquet.  The  sun 
was  beating  down  on  the  narrow  paved  streets  of  Antoing 
almost  with  the  fervour  of  the  Camatic  as  I  cleared  the  town 
and  took  the  road  Mons-ward.  It  lay  along  the  vaUey  of  the 
Scheldt,  sometimes  hot  and  dusty,  sometimes  under  shade  of 
rustling  poplars,  cool  and  refreshing  after  the  glare.  It  took 
me  long  to  get  out  of  sight  of  the  spire  of  Antoing  and  the  tall 
tower  of  the  old  chateau,  but  at  last  I  reached  Jemappes 
very  tired.  No  '  field  '  here  for  thought  or  study  ;  nothing 
but  a  dry  cinder-heaped  hill,  with  smoking  chimneys  above  it 
and  coal-mines  below.  Nothing  to  show  where  Dumouriez 
placed  his  troops  for  the  attack,  where  Clarefait's  fourteen 
heavy  batteries  were  ranged,  where  young  De  Charteris  led 
his  blue-coated  volunteers  up  the  hill  of  Cuesnes  to  assault 
the  Austrian  batteries  ;  no  chance,  even,  of  identifying  the 
three  particular  coalpits  down  which  the  victorious  French 
put  their  own  and  their  enemy's  twelve  thousand  dead  men 
and  horses.  The  black  country  in  Stafford  is  scarcely  more 
cinder-heaped  and  smoke-grimed  than  is  this  spot  where  the 
first  act  of  the  greatest  drama  ever  plaj-ed  in  human  history 
began. 

At  INIons  next  day  I  had  better  luck.  From  the  top  of  the 
high  tower  of  St.  Wadru,  that  old  towTi  of  neither  toil  nor  traffic, 
the  eye  could  range  far  over  this  south  end  of  the  great  '  cock- 
pit,' over  Malplaquet,  over  Frameries,  over  Bavay,  over 
Jemappes.  There  yonder,  between  Sars  and  Tenniers,  on 
the  11th  September  1709,  fell  some  thirty-five  thousand  French, 
English,  Dutch,  Danes,  Germans,  and  Italians.  '  Those  who 
were  not  killed,'  wrote  Eugene,  *  died  of  fatigue.  I  gave  some 
rest  to  the  remains  of  my  troops,  buried  aU  I  could,  and  then 
marched  to  Mons.'  Of  all  the  battles  of  Queen  Anne's  wars, 
this  of  ^lalplaquet  was  the  most  deadly.  Although  the  AUies 
won  the  honours,  the  French  got  the  tricks.  '  The  plunder 
of  France  was  the  general  discourse  in  Germany,  England, 
and  HoUand  at  the  opening  of  the  campaign  of  1709  '  ;  but  the 
loss  of  the  twenty-five  thousand  of  the  best  of  the  Allied  troops 


76     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

saved  France  from  serious  invasion,  and  so  crippled  the  attack- 
ing power  of  the  Allies  that  it  practically  led  to  the  conclusion 
of  the  war.  '  If  it  pleases  God/  wrote  Marshal  Villars  after 
the  fight,  '  to  favour  j'our  Majesty  with  the  loss  of  another 
such  battle,  your  enemies  wiU  be  destroyed.'  That  was  about 
the  truth. 

I  rambled  along  for  another  few  daj^s,  and  finally  found  my- 
self on  the  road  which  led  north  from  Fleurus  to  Ligny.  The 
hot  weather  still  continued,  but  notwithstanding  the  heat  and 
foot-travel,  the  days  were  pleasant  in  themselves  and  delightful 
now  to  look  back  upon.  I  kept  a  notebook,  and  I  find  in  it 
little  bits  of  the  life  in  town  and  country  that  read  freshly 
now  : — 

'  Stopped  to  rest  in  a  clump  of  trees  crossing  a  little  mound  on 
the  right  of  the  road,  where  there  was  an  image  of  the  Crucifixion, 
and  underneath  the  inscription  which  poor  Tom  Hood  wove  so  well 
into  the  ode  that  made  Rae  Wilson  famous  and  ridiculous  lq  his 
generation  : — 

The  pious  choice  had  fixed  upon  the  verge  of  a  delicious  slope, 

Giving  the  eye  such  variegated  scope. 

"  Look  round,"  it  whispered,  "  oil  that  prospect  rare, 

Those  vales  so  verdant  and  those  hills  so  blue  : 

Enjoy  the  sunny  world  so  fresh  and  fair  : 

But"  (how  the  simple  legend  pierced  me  through), 

"  Priez,  pour  les  malheureux." 

'  Yes,  it  was  a  fair  world,  and  a  delightful  thing  to  wander  over 
it.  No  anxiety  for  the  morrow,  no  care  for  to-day,  no  regret  for 
yesterday  ;  eating  when  hungry,  sleeping  when  tired,  reading  the 
leaves  of  the  trees,  seeing  the  sunny  half  of  the  great  round  peach 
which  we  call  the  world.  When  I  repine  at  poverty  and  wish  for 
money,  it  is  not  for  love  of  the  gold  thing  itself,  but  for  the  love 
of  all  the  golden  scenes  which  the  want  of  it  hides  from  me.  And 
then  so  little  would  suffice  for  what  I  long  to  do.  The  money 
which  thousands  waste  without  anything  to  show  for  it  would 
carry  me  through  the  length  of  this  glorious  world.  Men  talk  of 
knowledge  of  the  world,  meaning  only  knowledge  of  the  human 
town  mites  that  are  on  it,  but  of  the  true  world  they  know  nothing. 

'  Evening. — Halting  in  a  sheepfold.  The  sheep  have  gathered  in 
for  the  night.  They  stare  at  the  strange  intruder,  first  with 
awe,  then  with  surprise,  then  with  indifference  or  contempt.  One, 
older  or  bolder  than  the  others,  presumes  upon  his  ten  minutes' 


FIELD  OF  LIGNY  77 

acquaintance  to  approach  close,  look   straight  into   my  face,   and 
stamp  his  foot  at  me.     "  Be  off  out  of  that,"  he  says. 

'  Sunday  morniiig. — The  chimes  in  the  old  church  tower  have  been 
busy  for  some  time,  and  the  inhabitants  of  the  village  are  going 
past  my  open  window  in  their  best  bib  and  tucker.  I  looked  into 
the  billiard-room  of  the  inn  last  night,  and  now  I  can  scarcely 
recognise  in  the  black-coated  churchgoers  the  players  of  last  even- 
ing. I  begin  to  be  ashamed  of  my  single  tweed  suit,  now  looking 
dusty  and  travel-stained  ;  but  when  a  man  has  to  carry  his  own 
baggage  he  cuts  his  clothing,  not  to  his  cloth,  but  to  his  knapsack.' 

This  day  at  Ligny  was  the  longest  and  hottest  of  any  in  my 
rambles.  All  the  names  on  the  milestones  were  like  the  faces 
of  old  dead  friends  seen  in  a  dream — Ligny,  St.  Amand,  Som- 
brefife,  Bry,  Quatre  Bras,  '  To  Genappe,'  '  To  Namur,'  '  To 
Waterloo.'  I  had  been  reading  of  these  places,  great  hinges 
of  history,  graveyards  of  human  glory,  for  years  in  all  sorts  of 
places,  trying  so  hard  to  transfer  their  printed  names  into 
brain  pictures,  that  now  when  I  came  upon  them,  not  in  the 
flesh  but  in  corn  ridge  and  pasture  slope  and  cottage  plot,  it 
seemed  impossible  they  could  be  what  the  milestones  and 
fingerposts  said  they  were — themselves. 

I  passed  through  the  little  village  of  Lign}',  and  got  to  the 
higher  ridges  of  Bry  immediately  behind  it.  The  old  windmill 
at  Bussy,  where  Bliicher  had  seen  his  centre  broken  in  the 
twUight  of  the  June  evening,  was  there  still,  and  near  it  stood 
a  single  old  walnut-tree,  offering  most  grateful  shade  under  its 
branches.  From  this  point,  the  events  of  the  16th  June 
1815  could  be  seen  in  a  single  sweep  of  vision.  It  was  another 
of  these  Fontenoy  fields,  readable  from  a  single  centre,  a  thing 
never  to  be  possible  again.  One  hundred  years  ago  men  stood 
six  hundred  yards  from  their  enemies  ;  now  thej^  stand  six 
thousand  yards  away.  Below  where  I  sat  ran  the  little 
streamlet  of  Ligny,  its  valley  forming  an  almost  continuous 
line  of  hamlets  from  St.  Amand  on  the  right  to  Sombre ffe  on 
the  left. 

All  along  this  valley,  for  a  distance  of  some  four  miles,  a 
terrible  combat  was  waged  on  the  afternoon  of  16th  June 
1815.  Villages,  hamlets,  and  farmhouses  were  taken  and 
retaken  again  and  again  ;  while  above,  on  the  parallel  ridges 
which  front  each  other  before  either  side  of  the  rivulet   of 


78     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Ligny,  some  four  hundred  and  fifty  guns  thundered  over  the 

combatants. 

I  had  to  sleep  somewhere  near  Quatre  Bras  that  night, 
so  after  a  rest  of  about  an  hour  I  struck  the  main  line  of  paved 
road  between  Namur  and  Nivelles,  near  Sombreffe,  and  held 
westward  towards  Quatre  Bras. 

About  liaKway  between  the  two  places  there  is  some  high 
ground  on  the  right  of  the  Chaussee  which  commands  an 
extensive  prospect  upon  either  side.  You  can  see  Fleurus  and 
Charleroi  to  the  south,  a.nd  the  half-dozen  white  houses  of 
Quatre  Bras  to  the  west,  while  where  you  turn  north-west  the 
top  of  the  cone  of  the  lion-mound  on  the  field  of  Waterloo  is 
visible  in  this  direction.  You  can  see,  too,  a  little  to  the  east 
of  north,  the  smoke  of  Wavre.  At  Marbais  you  stand  nearly 
in  the  centre  of  the  square  which  has  for  its  corners  the  four 
battle-points  of  Ligny,  Quatre  Bras,  Waterloo,  and  Wavre, 
and  all  the  grand  but  simple  strategy  of  Napoleon's  campaign 
of  1815,  planned  in  Paris,  is  apparent,  magnificent  in  con- 
ception, simple  when  it  is  once  understood.  The  armies  of  his 
adversaries,  Wellington  and  Bliicher,  were  cantoned  facing 
the  northern  frontier  of  France  from  Namur  to  Ath,  along 
a  distance  of  some  fifty  miles.  They  numbered  a  total  of  about 
two  hundred  and  thirty  thousand  men,  with  more  than  five 
hundred  guns. 

The  Emperor  Napoleon  could  strike  at  this  great  array  with 
a  total  of  only  one  hundred  and  eleven  thousand  men  and 
three  hundred  and  fifty  cannon.  It  was  an  enormous,  almost 
a  hopeless,  disparity  of  force,  but  it  had  to  be  faced,  because 
at  least  another  four  hundred  thousand  men  were  moving  from 
all  Europe  against  the  French  frontiers. 

From  east  to  west,  and  through  the  centre  of  the  Allied  canton- 
ments, ran  a  great  paved  highway  (the  same  we  are  now  on  at 
Marbais),  affording  the  easiest  means  of  concentrating  both 
armies,  either  separately  or  together.  This  great  road  was 
bisected  at  Quatre  Bras  by  another  main  road  leading  from 
Charleroi  to  Brussels,  running  nearly  north  and  south.  If 
Napoleon  could  seize  Charleroi,  he  would  be  within  striking 
distance  of  the  great  central  road  from  Namur  to  Quatre  Bras 
and  Nivelles.  Here  at  Marbais  we  are  at  the  spot  which 
marked  the  point  where  the  left  of  the  army  under  Wellington 


NAPOLEON'S  STRATEGY  79 

touched  the  right  of  Bliicher's  army.     Napoleon's  plan  was  to 
strike  this  road  at  two  places — one  Sombreffe,  which  we  have 
just  quitted  ;    the  other  Quatre  Bras,  to  which  we  are  going. 
If  he  could  gain  these  two  places  on  the  main  road,  he  had 
cut  in  two  the  direct  line  between  his  powerful  enemies,  and 
as  neither  of  them  had  as  yet  concentrated  their  armies,  he 
might  hope  to  engage  them  separately  and  beat  them  in  detail. 
At  daybreak  on  the  15th  June  he  launched  some  seventy 
thousand  men  in  three  columns  upon  Charleroi.     They  were 
all  to  meet  at  or  near  that  city.     By  noon  the  heads  of  these 
three  columns  had  crossed  the  Sambre,  carried  Charleroi,  and 
were  pursuing  the  Prussian  corps  of  Ziethen  back  to  the  great 
road  at  Sombreffe.     On  the  same  evening  the  French  left 
column  under  Ney,  following  the  bisecting  road  from  Charleroi 
to  Quatre  Bras,  had  reached  Frasne,  less  than  three  miles  from 
Quatre  Bras,  driving  the  Allied  troops  of  the  Prince  of  Orange 
back  to  Quatre  Bras.     When  night  closed  on  the   15th  the 
position  of  the  three  armies  was  as  follows  :  the  French  head- 
quarters were  at  Charleroi,  the  centre  concentrated  round  that 
place,  the  Prussians  at  Namur,  the  English  at  Brussels.     Not 
until  midnight  on  that  day  (the  15th),  did  the  Duke  of  Welling- 
ton know  that  his  enemy,  whom  he  believed  to  be  still  in  Paris, 
was  in   reality  at  Charleroi,  thirty  miles  south  of  Brussels. 
Bliicher,    seventeen    miles    east   of    Namur,    was    in    equal 
ignorance  of  Napoleon's  movements,  and  of  the  concentration 
of  his  army  on  the  frontier,  one  march  distant  from  Charleroi, 
until  the  night  of  the  14th  June. 

It  was  a  master-stroke  of  strategy,  among  the  most  brilliant 
in  the  records  of  war.  One  incident  had  alone  interfered  with 
its  complete  success — it  was  the  desertion  of  the  traitors, 
Bourmont  and  Cluet,  on  the  14th  June,  to  the  Prussians  at 
Namur.  Bourmont  was  the  chief  of  the  stafif  of  Gerard's  Corps 
forming  the  right  wing  of  the  French  army.  Cluet  was  an 
officer  of  Engineers,  and  there  was  a  third  officer  of  lesser  rank. 
These  three  traitors  carried  to  Bliicher,  on  the  night  of  the  14th 
at  Namur,  the  first  news  he  had  received  of  the  French  move- 
ment ;  and  Bourmont,  from  his  high  position  on  the  staff,  was 
able  to  impart  secret  information  of  the  highest  moment. 

It  is  now  certain  that  if  it  had  not  been  for  this  traitorous 
act  the  whole  Prussian  arm}"  would  have  been  quiet  in  its 


80     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

cantonments  on  the  morning  of  the  15th  June,  and  it  would 
then  have  required  a  clear  fort3'^-eight  hours  to  assemble  even 
three  corps  of  the  Prussian  army  in  front  of  Charleroi.  With 
the  information  given  him  by  Bourmont,  Bliicher  was  able  to 
beat  the  '  Generale  '  in  his  various  cantonments  on  the  night 
of  the  14th  Jmie,  and  to  get  his  scattered  corps  in  movement 
in  the  direction  of  Fleurus  at  daybreak  on  the  15th.  Bour- 
mont's  treachery  had  robbed  Napoleon  of  about  twelve  precious 
hours. 

Nevertheless,  the  chances  were  all  in  his  favour  at  midnight 
on  the  15th.  Ney  had  actually  reported  his  occupation  of 
Quatre  Bras.  Napoleon  himself  was  within  striking  distance 
of  Sombreffe.  Thus  the  main  road  commanding  the  two 
Allied  armies  would  probably  be  in  his  possession  on  the  16th, 
and  the  two  armies  would  be  cut  asunder. 

The  next  day's  work  was  to  be  this  : 

With  his  centre  and  right  massed  together,  Napoleon  would 
attack  the  Prussians  at  or  near  SombreSe.  Nej''  was  to  attack 
Quatre  Bras  eight  miles  west  of  Sombreffe,  whatever  might  be  in 
his  front.  The  result  of  the  16th  June"  is  easil}^  told.  Napoleon 
performed  his  part  of  the  programme  by  smashing  the  Prussians 
at  Ligny  ;  Ney  failed  in  his  much  easier  task  at  Quatre  Bras. 
On  that  morning  of  the  16th  he  had  more  than  forty  thousand 
men,  and  over  a  hundred  guns  under  his  command,  between 
Gossehes  and  Quatre  Bras.  Only  a  weak,  mixed  brigade  of  the 
enemy  held  that  important  post.  Nevertheless,  Ney  let  the 
precious  morning  hours  slip  away  in  total  inaction  at  Frasnes, 
and  it  was  past  two  o'clock  in  the  afternoon  when  he  moved 
on  Quatre  Bras.  That  position  had  then  been  heavily  rein- 
forced, and  every  hour  of  daj^'hght  that  remained  saw  fresh 
accessions  of  force  arriving  from  the  English  reserve  at  Brussels, 
and  the  scattered  cantonments  to  the  west.  Here  occurred 
the  first  loss  of  the  campaign  of  1815  for  Napoleon.  The 
essence  of  this  tremendous  problem  he  had  set  himself  to  solve 
was  time.  In  war,  time  must  inevitablj'  be  often  lost ;  but 
for  this  loss  of  at  least  eight  hours  before  Quatre  Bras  there 
was  neither  reason  nor  excuse.  It  was  the  most  gratuitous 
waste  of  opportunity  that  the  history  of  war  affords,  unless, 
indeed,  it  be  found  two  days  later  in  another  inexplicable  loss 
of  ten  hours  on  the  part  of  a  French  marshal  on  the  other 


FIELD  OF  QUATRE  BRAS  81 

side  of  this  great  square,  of  which  the  four  corners  held  the 
campaigning  ground  of  1815.  Grouchy,  on  the  18th,  will 
repeat,  with  still  more  disastrous  results  to  his  master,  this 
terrible  inaction  at  Gembloux,  at  Tabaraque,  and  at  Wavre, 
which  Ney  is  here  practising  at  Gosselies,  Frasnes,  and  Quatre 
JBras. 

I  must  resume  my  own  march  upon  Quatre  Bras,  and  see 
the  ground  for  myself.  So,  taking  up  the  knapsack  again,  I 
trudged  westward  along  the  high  road.  I  reached  the  little 
hamlet  at  the  cross-roads  as  the  sun  was  getting  low  towards 
the  horizon.  There  was  the  field  untouched :  the  wood  of 
Boissu,  the  farm  of  Gemioncourt,  rising  into  the  higher  ground 
behind  which  lay  the  village  of  Frasnes,  the  half  a  dozen  white 
houses  standing  bare  about  the  point  of  intersection  of  the 
two  great  highways. 

The  stubble  was  crisp  under  foot  as  I  held  on  by  Gemion- 
court and  Frasnes.  A  few  ploughmen  were  unyoking  their 
teams  and  turning  homewards.  Of  all  the  fields  of  Flanders 
this  of  Quatre  Bras  had  the  strongest  personal  interest  for  me. 
Just  there  below  the  ridge  of  Gemioncourt  the  69th  Regiment 
had  fared  badly  at  the  hands  of  Kellermann's  Cuirassiers  on 
the  afternoon  of  that  16th  June.  It  was  not  their  fault,  poor 
fellows.  The  Prince  of  Orange  had  insisted  upon  line  being 
formed  from  the  square  into  which  a  careful  colonel  (who  was 
killed  two  days  later  at  Waterloo)  had  put  them;  the  Cuirassiers 
had  simpl}^  rolled  up  the  line  from  right  to  left,  killed  and 
wounded  a  hundred  and  fifty  officers  and  men,  and  taken  the 
regimental  colour  back  with  them  to  Ney  on  the  ridge  of  Frasnes. 

Before  I  left  Aldershot,  one  of  those  excellent  men  who  have 
leamt  to  laugh  at  everything  out  of  England  asked  me  why 
I  was  going  abroad  to  look  at  a  lot  of  turnip  fields  ;  '  You 
know  that  here  in  England  they  say  you  can't  get  blood  out 
of  a  turnip.'  I  answered  :  '  But  in  Belgium  you  can  get  plenty 
of  turnips  out  of  blood  ;  that  's  why  I  'm  going  there.' 

I  reached  Frasnes  very  tired  after  sunset.  The  day  had 
been  hot  and  hard,  and  I  was  badly  in  need  of  supper  and  rest. 
I  found  both  in  a  clean  little  cottage  here  at  Frasnes.  When 
the  homely  supper  was  served  on  a  snow-white  cloth,  I  found 
another  guest  at  table.  He  was  the  head  of  the  village  com- 
mune, an  excellent  specimen  of  the  Flemish  peasant.     There 

F 


82     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

was  a  dessert  of  grapes  and  two  or  three  peaches,  one  of  the 
latter  bemg  redder  and  riper  than  the  others.  My  companion 
had  the  plate  of  fruit  in  front  of  him  ;  he  turned  it  carefully 
round  until  the  big  peach  was  facing  where  I  sat,  and  then 
courteously  offered  the  plate  to  me.  It  was  a  simple  thing, 
but  I  have  never  forgotten  it.  Civility  goes  a  long  way,  they 
say  ;  in  the  case  of  my  peasant  friend  at  Frasnes  it  has  gone 
more  than  forty  years.  Liberty,  equality,  fraternity,  and  the 
greatest  of  these  is  fraternity  ;  and  perhaps  if  people  practised 
it  more  frequently  they  need  not  have  troubled  themselves  so 
much  about  the  other  two. 

I  walked  from  Frasnes  to  Waterloo  on  the  following  day. 
It  was  quite  as  hot  and  hard  as  any  of  the  other  days  ;  but  by 
this  time  I  was  hard  too. 

I  have  said  enough  about  these  old  Flemish  fields  of  fight. 
We  are  not  yet  one  hundred  years  from  Waterloo.  It  is  quite 
possible  that  there  are  thoughtful  people  in  England  to-day 
who  are  not  quite  so  keen  as  their  fathers  were  upon  the  '  leg 
up  '  on  the  high  horse  of  Europe  which  we  gave  Germany  in 
that  memorable  campaign  ;  and  neither  am  I  sure  that  there 
may  not  be  '  a  good  few  '  in  other  parts  of  Europe  who  rather 
regret  that  flank  march  from  Wavre  to  Waterloo,  which  saved 
Wellington  from  defeat,  and  made  the  rock  of  St.  Helena 
famous. 


CHAPTER  VI 

The  Channel  Isles.     Victor  Hugo.     The  Curragh.     To  Canada. 
Leave  in  the  West.     Buffalo  hunt. 

The  69th  went  from  Aldershot  to  the  Channel  Isles  in  the 
summer  of  1866,  and  my  lot  fell  to  the  beautiful  little  island 
of  Guernsey,  where  two  companies  were  quartered  in  Fort 
George  on  the  crest  of  the  hill  above  St.  Peter's  Port.  The 
view  from  the  rampart  of  this  old  fort  was  very  striking — 
islands  near  and  far  on  what  was  usually  a  blue  and  sparklmg 
sea,  and  beyond  the  islands  the  coast  of  Normandj^  from  Cape 
La  Hogue  to  Coutance.  It  was  a  verj^  happy  spot,  this  island: 
no  very  rich  people  and  no  very  poor  people  in  it  ;  moderate 
comfort  everywhere  ;  fruits  and  flowers  everj'where  ;  the  land 
and  the  sea  giving  a  two-handed  harvest  to  the  inhabitants. 
It  had,  however,  one  serious  drawback  :  intoxicating  drink 
was  as  plentiful  as  it  was  cheap.  The  island  had  a  copper 
currency  of  its  own  ;  unfortunate^,  a  depreciated  one.  If  a 
man  tendered  an  English  shilling  in  pajTnent  for  a  glass  of 
brandy,  he  received  twelve  Guernsey  pennies  back.  This 
was  too  much  for  old  soldiers,  particularly  for  the  men  who 
had  served  in  tropical  countries — a  glass  of  French  brandy 
and  twelve  Guernsey  pennies  given  in  return  for  one  English 
shilling  !  No  soldier  in  his  senses  could  understand  a  rate  of 
exchange  based  on  such  principles,  even  before  he  had  drunk 
his  glass  of  brandy,  and  after  that  event  the  problem  became 
still  more  abstruse.  It  was  impossible  not  to  love  these  old 
soldiers,  for,  notwithstanding  this  failing,  they  had  so  many 
splendid  qualities.  I  call  these  men  old  ;  in  reality  they  were 
all  under  forty  years,  but  they  were  old  in  every  other  sense  of 
the  word.  If  you  asked  any  of  these  men  when  they  were  in 
hospital  what  was  wrong  with  them,  they  would  usually 
answer,  '  Only  them  pains,  sir  ' ;  and  if  you  asked  again  what 
had  given  them  those  '  pains,'  they  would  invariably  say  it 


84     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

was  the  heavy  belts  and  cumbersome  pouches  they  had  to  wear 
for  twentj^'-four  hours  on  guard.  It  was  true.  Our  stupid 
regulations  broke  down  those  fine  soldiers  long  before  their 
time.  Men  said  that  there  were  other  causes,  but  I  don't 
think  there  were.  There  was  not  a  regimental  band  in  the 
service  in  which  you  could  not  have  found  some  old  bassoon 
or  trombone  player,  who  had  sampled  in  his  time  every  in- 
toxicating fluid  from  cocoanut  toddy  to  methylated  spirits, 
but  who,  nevertheless,  was  still  going  and  blowing  strong, 
simply  because  he  had  not  done  a  night's  guard  duty  in  his 
twenty  years. 

A  short  road  led  to  St.  Peter's  Port  from  our  fort  on  the  hill. 
Half-way  down  the  slope  one  passed  a  rather  gloomy-looking, 
soUd,  square  house,  standing  on  the  right  of  the  road.  This 
was  Hauteville  House,  in  which  Victor  Hugo  had  lived  for 
several  years.  He  was  absent  from  Guernsey  at  this  time, 
on  a  visit  to  Belgium.  I  had  but  recently  finished  reading  his 
Les  Miserables.  I  thought  his  description  of  Waterloo  the 
finest  piece  of  writing  I  had  ever  read.  It  had  been  constantly 
in  my  mind  during  the  recent  visit  to  Waterloo,  and  I  had  felt 
all  that  time  the  want  of  a  practical  acquaintance  with  the 
French  language.  The  first  thing  I  now  thought  of  doing  in 
this  French-speaking  island  was  to  learn  it. 

A  chance  inquiry  about  a  tutor  gave  me  the  name  of  a 
M.  Hannett  de  Kesler,  who  lived  in  a  smaU  house  at  a  little 
distance  below  Hauteville.  It  was  thus  that  I  made  the  ac- 
quaintance of  one  of  the  most  delightful  human  beings  I  have 
met  in  life.  He  lived  in  very  straitened  circumstances  with 
only  an  old  woman  servant  to  keep  house  for  him.  He 
had  had  a  remarkable  career.  Editor  of  a  Republican  news- 
paper in  Paris  in  1848,  he  had  all  the  courage  of  his  convictions, 
and  had  stood  beside  Baudin  on  the  barricade  in  the  Faubourg 
St.  Antoine  on  the  memorable  morning  in  December  1851. 
Then  he  had  gone  into  exile  with  Victor  Hugo  and  others. 
When  an  amnesty  was  offered  later  he  refused  to  acpept  it. 
'  Never,'  said  Victor  Hugo,  at  poor  Kesler's  grave  two  years 
after  the  time  I  am  writing  of — '  Never  was  there  more  pro- 
found and  tenacious  devotion  than  his.  He  was  a  champion 
and  a  sufferer.  He  possessed  all  forms  of  courage,  from  the 
lively  courage  of  the  combat  to  the  slow  courage  of  endurance  ; 


1 


ACQUAINTANCE  WITH  VICTOR  HUGO  85 

from  the  braver}-  which  faces  the  cannon,  to  the  heroism  which 
accepts  the  loss  of  home/  He  was  a  deep  and  sincere  Re- 
pubUcan,  and  his  love  and  devotion  to  Victor  Hugo  were  an 
extraordinary  thing  to  see.  He  literally  worshipped  the  poet. 
But  above  all  that  anybody  could  say  of  him,  stood  his  honesty 
and  his  simplicity  of  life.  I  look  upon  the  hours  spent  in  the 
society  of  this  dear  old  man  with  unalloyed  pleasure.  He 
was  broken  in  health,  and  was  already  showing  symptoms  of 
the  slow  form  of  paralysis  of  which  he  died  two  years  later. 
He  wrote  poetry,  simple  and  touching  little  verses,  inspired, 
I  think,  b}^  the  antics  of  a  minx  of  some  sixteen  summers 
who  lived  opposite,  and  who  used  to  make  eyes  at  him  across 
the  street.  He  used  to  read  these  verses  to  me.  I  remember 
one  that  began 

'  Elle  a  le  charme,  elle  a  la  grace.' 

He  was,  as  I  have  said,  in  very  straitened  circumstances  ; 
but  he  kept  it  all  to  himself,  and  would  not  even  let  Victor 
Hugo  know  of  his  wants. 

A  month  or  two  after  I  had  begun  to  take  lessons  from  him, 
in  August  I  think  it  was,  I  had  to  go  away  for  a  few  weeks. 
I  was  settling  his  modest  fee  for  tuition,  and  I  wanted  to  pay 
in  advance  up  to  the  end  of  the  j-ear.  I  put  the  gold  pieces 
on  the  table,  but  he  would  only  take  what  was  due  to  him  at 
the  moment,  and  insisted  upon  returning  the  rest  of  the  money 
to  me.  It  was  some  time  after  my  return  that  I  discovered 
the  cause  of  this  refusal.  He  had  determined  to  go  on  board 
the  Jersey  steamer,  and  drop  quietly  overboard  in  front  of 
the  paddle-box  on  the  voyage.  He  did  not  want  to  be  a  burden 
upon  anybody.  That  was  the  reason  he  had  returned  the  few 
sovereigns  I  had  wished  to  give  him  in  advance  !  Meanwhile, 
somebody  told  Victor  Hugo  of  the  pecuniary  straits  of  his 
devoted  follower,  and  provision  was  at  once  made  to  meet  his 
simple  wants. 

Shortly  after  the  return  of  Victor  Hugo  to  the  island,  I 
received  a  very  courteous  invitation  to  Hauteville  House. 
'  n  a  ajout6,  "  J'aurais  le  plus  grand  plaisir  a  voir  Monsieur 
Butler,  et  j'espere  qu'il  ne  tardera  pas  a  me  faire  cet  honneur."  ' 

There  was  a  District  Court-martial  that  forenoon,  which  I 
was  obliged  to  attend,  and  I  went  to  it  with  feelings  not  easy 


86     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

to  describe.  Something  went  very  wrong  with  the  pro- 
ceedings shortly  after  we  assembled,  and  I  took  advantage  of 
the  adjournment  to  fly  to  Hauteville  House.  I  found  there  a 
party  of  some  eight  or  ten  persons  assembled  in  a  room  which 
had  many  curious  conceits  in  its  furniture  and  decorations. 
Four  carved  seats  were  let  into  the  wainscoting,  with  paint- 
ings done  on  their  high  straight  backs  in  the  old  Dutch  style. 
Three  of  these  stiff  chairs  were  for  the  living,  and  one,  which 
had  a  chain  across  its  arms,  was  marked  '  For  the  dead.'  The 
paintings  represented  '  The  End  of  the  Soldier,' '  The  End  of  the 
Law^'^er,'  and  '  The  End  of  the  Priest.'  I  have  forgotten  how 
the  two  first  were  supposed  to  come  by  their  ends,  but  in  the 
last  picture  a  woman  was  laj^ing  a  birch  broom  across  the 
shoulders  of  a  French  cleric  who  was  in  the  act  of  disappearing 
through  a  doorway. 

During  the  dejeuner  Victor  Hugo  spoke  a  great  deal.  I 
was  able  to  follow  what  he  said  with  difficulty.  What  struck 
me  most  was  the  extraordinary  sonorous  tone  of  his  voice, 
its  modulations,  and,  if  I  might  use  the  word,  its  ramifica- 
tions. It  seemed  to  run  up  and  down  through  words  as  the 
fingers  of  a  great  musician  might  range  through  notes  of 
music. 

He  frequently  repeated  the  invitation  to  me  to  attend  these 
little  weekly  parties,  and  I  used  to  meet  him  also  in  his  walks 
to  Fermain  Bay,  a  beautiful  little  secluded  sea  cove  between 
very  high  rocks,  not  far  from  our  fort.  At  times  he  used  to  be 
full  of  fun  and  raillery,  but  the  general  tone  of  his  mind  was 
grave  and  serious.  I  kept  no  regular  diary  at  this  time,  but 
I  find  in  an  intermittent  little  notebook  some  references  to 
these  meetings, 

'  22nd  Octr.  (1866).— At  breakfast  with  Victor  Hugo.  After 
looking  at  me  for  some  time,  he  suddenly  said  :  "  I  have  examined 
your  face,  and  if  I  was  ever  to  be  tried  I  would  wish  to  have  you 
for  a  judge." 

'  2&h  Nov. — To-day  at  Victor  Hugo's.  He  said  :  "  I  also  am  an 
Irishman.  I  love  Ireland  because  she  is  to  me  a  Poland  and  a 
Hungary,  because  she  suffers.  .  .  ."  Later  he  asked  me  if  I  would 
accompany  him  the  following  year  through  Ireland.  "  I  want  to 
see  that  island  and  its  i^eople.  You  shall  be  my  guide  there.  The 
only  stipulation  I  will  make  is  that  we  shall  drive  everywhere, 
and  that  you  will  not  ask  me  to  travel  in  a  train."  ' 


VICTOR  HUGO  AT  HOME  87 

But  the  next  year  I  was  far  away  in  Canada  ! 

*  4th  Dec. — Dined  this  evening  in  company  with  Victor  Hugo  at 
Monsieur  Le  Bers'.  He  was  full  of  fun.  "  Take  care  of  him  !  "  he 
said,  pointing  at  me  ;   "  he  is  an  enfant  terrible." 

'  10th  Dec. — Breakfasted  at  Victor  Hugo's.  He  said  that  there 
were  two  English  words  which  he  hated  :  one  was  "  Respectable," 
and  the  other  "  Ragged."  "  Ragged  School !  think  of  that,"  he  went 
on  ;   "  does  it  not  make  you  shiver  ?  "  ' 

Of  the  many  curious  things  to  be  seen  in  Haute ville  House, 
the  master's  sleeping-room  was  the  strangest.  He  had  built 
it  on  the  roof  between  two  great  blocks  of  chimneys.  You 
ascended  to  his  workshop  bedroom  by  stairs  which  somewhat 
resembled  a  ladder  :  quite  half  of  the  room  was  glass,  and  the 
view  from  it  was  magnificent  ;  the  isles  of  Jethou  and  Sark 
were  in  the  middle  distance,  and  beyond  lay  many  a  mile  of 
the  Norman  coast.  Alderney  lay  to  the  north,  and  beyond  it 
one  saw  the  glistening  windows  of  the  triple  lighthouses  on 
the  Casquet  rocks,  and  still  more  to  the  right  the  high  ridges 
overlooking  Cherbourg.  The  bed  was  a  small  camp  bedstead, 
with  a  table  on  one  side  of  it,  and  a  small  desk  chest  of  drawers 
on  the  other,  with  pens,  ink  and  paper  always  within  reach. 
Near  the  bed  stood  a  small  stove,  which  he  lighted  himself 
every  morning,  and  on  which  he  prepared  his  cafe.-au-lait ; 
then  work  began  at  the  large  table  which  stood  in  the  glass 
alcove  a  few  feet  from  the  foot  of  the  bed.  This  work  went  on 
till  it  was  time  to  dress  and  descend  to  the  dejeuner  in  the  room 
on  the  ground  floor  already  described. 

As  the  sheets  of  writing-paper  were  finished,  they  were 
numbered  and  dropped  on  the  floor,  to  be  picked  up,  arranged, 
and  put  away  in  the  drawer-desk  at  the  end  of  the  morning's 
labour.  He  called  the  writing-table  his  '  carpenter's  bench,' 
and  the  leaves  which  fell  from  it  his  '  shavings.'  It  was  at 
this  table  and  in  this  airy  attic  that  most  of  the  great  work  of 
his  later  life  was  done.  Here  were  written  Les  Miserahles,  Les 
Travailleurs  de  la  Mer,  and  many  volumes  of  poetry.  Among 
the  few  things  which  have  survived  the  tossings  and  travails 
of  life  I  have  still  managed  to  retain  in  my  possession  some 
of  the  '  shavings  '  from  that  '  carpenter's  bench,'  which  he 
gave  me  as  souvenirs  of  his  friendship. 

Nowhere  in  these  islands  is  the  sea  more  delightful  than  at 


88     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Guernsey.  Victor  Hugo  has  told  us  that  when  he  and  his 
son  found  themselves  exiles  in  the  Channel  Isles,  the  son  asked 
him  what  he  proposed  to  do.  '  I  shall  look  at  the  sea/  replied 
the  father  ;  '  and  you  ?  '  'I  will  translate  Shakespeare/ 
answered  the  son.  In  this  little  conversation  we  get  the  key 
to  two  of  the  poet's  works,  Les  Travailleurs  de  la  Mer  and 
William  Shakespeare — the  last  httle  known,  but  nevertheless 
the  work  of  which  its  author  was  proudest. 

It  is  a  wonderful  sea  that  laves  the  feet  of  these  beautiful 
island  rocks.  I  bathed  m  it  through  the  winter  months  of 
1866-67. 

Suddenly,  at  the  end  of  the  winter,  '  the  route,'  as  it  used 
to  be  called,  came.  The  69th  was  ordered  to  Ireland.  So, 
in  March  1867,  we  sailed  away  from  Guernsej^,  leaving  with 
many  regrets  its  kind,  gentle,  and  generous  people.  The 
soldier  is  but  a  '  toiler  of  the  sea  '  and  the  land,  and  that  means 
many  partings  in  his  life.  But  this  life  of  changing  scene 
has  several  sides  to  it.  I  have  sometimes  thought  that  a 
marching  regiment  filled  in  our  social  system  the  place  taken 
by  a  comet  in  the  solar  system  when  it  comes  along  and  the 
people  run  to  the  window  and  look  out. 

We  spent  the  early  summer  of  1867  at  the  Curragh  ;  but  in 
August  '  the  route  '  came  again  suddenly,  and  we  embarked 
for  Canada  on  the  19th  of  that  month  in  the  transport  Serapis, 
then  making  her  first  voyage.  It  was  a  very  uncomfortable 
experience  ;  the  vessel  had  little  or  no  baUast,  and  she  bobbed 
about  among  the  Atlantic  rollers  for  thirteen  days  before 
getting  to  Quebec.  After  a  delay  of  one  day  we  were  trans- 
ferred to  boats  plying  between  Quebec  and  Montreal,  and 
again  transferred  to  other  river  craft  bound  for  Hamilton,  at 
the  western  end  of  Lake  Ontario  ;  finally  getting  to  a  little 
town  in  Western  Canada  called  Brantford,  about  midway 
between  Lakes  Ontario  and  Erie.  This  district  had  been  the 
scene  of  some  recent  incursions  at  the  hands  of  armed  bodies 
of  Fenians  who  had  formerlj^  served  in  the  Northern  armies 
of  the  now  once  more  L^nited  States,  and  who,  finding  their 
occupation  gone  on  the  Potomac  and  the  Rapahannock,  had 
elected  to  carry  on  war  on  their  own  account  on  the  St.  Law- 
rence and  the  Welland  Canal.  Hence  our  rapid  movement  to 
Canada. 


CANADIAN  LIFE  89 

The  whole  character  of  the  new  scene  of  service  was  so  novel 
to  me,  and  so  fuU  of  the  virility  of  a  youthful  people,  that  it 
would  be  impossible  to  give  expression  to  the  sense  of  the 
freshness  of  life  that  went  with  it  to  us  who  now  beheld  it  for 
the  first  time.  The  approach  by  the  mighty  estuary  of  the 
St.  Lawrence  River,  the  gradual  drawing  in  of  these  great 
shores,  the  immense  width  of  the  stream  when  it  is  still  six 
hundred  miles  from  the  open  sea,  the  varied  scenery  of  lake 
and  rapid  along  the  upward  course  to  Ontario,  and  then  that 
beautiful  expanse  of  water  itself,  all  combined  to  strike  the 
mind  of  the  newcomer  with  the  sense  of  size  and  majesty 
which  is  the  dominant  note  of  the  American  continent. 

In  boyhood  I  had  read  the  novels  of  Fenimore  Cooper 
with  an  intensity  of  interest  never  to  be  known  again 
in  reading.  '  Leather  Stocking,'  Lucas,  Chingaghook,  the 
Mohicans,  the  Hurons,  the  scenery  of  the  Thousand  Islands — 
aU  these  had  been  things  quite  as  real  to-  me  in  imagination 
as  the  actual  scenes  through  which  we  were  now  passing. 
Only  the  Indians  and  the  wild  animals  were  wanting.  \Miere 
were  they  ?  Gone  from  this  West  Canada,  but  still  to  be  found 
west  of  the  Mississippi  and  the  Missouri,  I  was  told.  It  was 
now  the  middle  of  September.  I  got  three  months'  leave  of 
absence  and,  in  company  with  another  old  friend  of  the  Indian 
forest  days,  started  out  for  the  great  West.  Three  days  after 
leaving  Brantford  we  were  at  Omaha,  west  of  the  Mississippi. 
Fortune  had  favoured  us.  We  knew  nobody,  nobody  knew 
us,  and  yet  it  was  simple  truth  to  say  that  everybody  be- 
friended us.  You  met  a  man  on  board  the  train  going  to 
Chicago  :  he  couldn't  do  enough  for  you  ;  he  passed  you  on 
to  some  other  good  fellow  who  knew  somebody  else  five  hundred 
or  a  thousand  miles  nearer  to  the  setting  sun ;  and  when  you 
alighted  at  the  longitude  of  that  particular  location,  you  found 
that  man  as  friendly  as  though  he  had  been  expecting  you 
for  years. 

This  was  exactly  what  happened  to  us.  We  struck  upon  a 
general  going  west  in  the  Chicago  hotel,  and  he  at  once  offered 
his  good  services  to  and  at  Omaha  on  the  Missouri,  where  he 
was  then  stationed.  At  that  period  the  soldiers  of  the  armies 
of  Sherman  and  Grant  seemed  to  be  all  either  in  the  West,  or 
going  there.     The  new  railway  to  California  was  just  opened 


90     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

to  Omaha ;  and  it  was  said  that  a  train  ran  as  far  over  the 
Nebraska  prairies  as  Fort  Kearney  on  the  North  Platte  River, 
three  hundred  miles  west  of  the  Missouri,  where  the  garrison 
of  the  fort  was  largely  rationed,  so  far  as  fresh  beef  went,  upon 
buflfalo-meat.  This  was  indeed  news  to  us,  and  we  set  off  from 
Chicago  in  high  spirits.  When  the  next  evening  came  we 
crossed  the  Missouri  over  a  very  crank-looking  temporary 
wooden  bridge  to  Omaha.  We  found  that  city  a  very  lively 
place  ;  railway  navvies,  gold-diggers,  speculators  abounded. 
Shooting  went  on  pretty  briskly  in  the  gambling  rooms  and 
drinking  saloons,  of  which  there  appeared  to  be  an  unlimited 
number.  Every  man  policed  himself  with  a  sort  of  murderous 
solemnity  that  was  most  impressive.  At  one  of  the  principal 
saloons,  a  day  or  two  before  our  arrival,  a  miner  had  quietly 
drawn  a  bead  upon  a  man  who  had  just  entered  and  was  walking 
up  towards  the  bar.  '  WTiat  did  you  shoot  him  for  ?  '  asked 
his  mate.  '  Wall,  I  just  guess  that  if  I  hadn't  done  that  he 
might  have  hurt  somebody,'  was  the  plea  of  justifiable  homicide 
entered  by  this  voluntary  preserver  of  the  peace. 

Our  friend,  the  Chicago  general,  called  early  next  day  at 
our  hotel,  and  asked  us  to  go  with  him  to  the  headquarters 
of  the  command.  We  went,  and  were  introduced  to  General 
Augur,  a  very  distmguished  officer  of  the  regular  army  who 
had  held  high  command  in  the  Civil  War.  Augur  was  of  that 
splendid  type  of  gentleman  which  West  Point  has  so  long  given 
to  America,  and  I  will  venture  to  hazard  the  opinion  that  if 
America  keeps  her  military  school  at  West  Point  m  the  future 
as  she  has  kept  it  in  the  past,  she  need  not  fear  that  either 
foreign  or  domestic  enemies  wiU  do  her  serious  harm.  West 
Point  will  give  her  captains  for  many  wars  ;  and  the  class 
to  which  that  '  peace  preserver '  belonged,  whose  peculiar 
methods  of  disciplme  I  have  already  described,  will  give  her 
the  rank  and  file  of  fighting  men. 

The  general  had  already  been  informed  of  the  object  of  our 
journey  to  the  West,  and  he  entered  warmly  into  our  plans. 
He  would  telegraph  at  once  to  the  commandant  at  Fort 
Kearney  as  to  the  whereabouts  of  buffalo  on  the  Platte  prairies, 
and  if  the  answer  proved  favourable  to  our  hopes  he  would 
send  his  aide-de-camp.  Captain  RusseU,  with  us  to  the  Fort, 
to  smooth  difficulties  and  facilitate  our  progress.     The  reply 


A  MERRY  PARTY  GOING  WEST  91 

came  quickly.  Yes ;  there  were  several  herds  on  the  prairies 
near  Kearney.  So  the  next  morning,  in  company  with  Captain 
Russell,  we  took  the  train  for  Fort  Kearney  Station  on  the 
new  Union  Pacific  Railway.  Some  other  officers  and  soldiers 
were  proceeding  west  to  join  garrisons  in  the  Indian  districts 
of  the  Platte  and  RepubUcan  Rivers.  We  were  a  very  merry 
party.  All  the  officers  had  served  in  the  Civil  War — some 
with  Sherman,  others  with  Grant.  We  had  the  end  of  the 
Pullman  car  to  ourselves. 

There  was  no  want  of  refreshment,  and  nobody  thought  of 
retiring  to  the  sleeping  compartment  until  the  night  was  more 
than  half  over.  Storj'  followed  story.  A  major  of  the  United 
States  Infantry  named  Burt  told  the  best ;  but  the  general's 
A.D.C.  was  a  good  second.  I  remember  one  of  these  stories 
which  had  a  touch  of  historical  interest  in  it. 

General  Grant  was  carrj^ing  out  on  the  Mississippi,  previous 
to  the  battle  of  Shiloh,  one  of  the  most  hazardous  operations 
known  in  war — crossing  his  army  from  one  shore  to  the  other, 
within  striking  distance  of  his  enemy  on  the  farther  shore. 
He  had  only  three  river  steamers  to  ferry  his  troops  over.  On 
the  third  day  the  operation  was  almost  completed,  and  the 
general  and  his  staff  were  on  horseback  on  the  enemy's  side  of 
the  Mississippi,  watching  the  passage  of  the  rearmost  battalions 
in  the  three  steamboats.  Grant  sat  his  horse,  silently  smok- 
ing a  large  cigar,  which  he  rolled  a  good  deal  between  his 
lips.  A  staff  officer  in  the  group  happened  to  observe  that 
if  they  were  licked  in  the  next  day  or  two  they  would  want 
more  transport  to  take  the  army  back  to  where  it  had  come 
from  than  those  three  httle  boats  could  give  them.  Rumour 
said  that  the  general  had  consumed  a  good  deal  of  Bourbon 
whisky  that  day,  as  was  his  wont  at  the  time,  I  have  heard  ; 
but  be  that  as  it  may,  it  did  not  unlock  his  lips  ;  he  continued 
to  roll  and  bite  the  big  cigar  in  grim  silence.  The  staff  officer 
repeated  his  observation  about  the  scantiness  of  transport. 
After  a  bit  the  general  seemed  to  have  become  aware  that 
somebody  had  spoken,  and  that  he  was  himself  expected  to 
say  something  in  reply.  Then  the  big  cigar  rolled  quicker 
than  before,  and  from  the  compressed  lips  the  remark  issued, 
'  Guess  them  three  boats  wiU  be  enough  to  take  back  what  's 
left  if  I  'm  hcked  to-morrow  !  ' 


92     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

We  reached  Kearney  Station  as  day  was  breaking,  and  found 
a  six-team  army  mule- waggon  awaiting  us.  The  fort  was  still 
some  six  miles  from  the  railway,  and  on  the  other  side  of  the 
Platte  River.  Things  were  soon  fixed  up,  and  away  we  went 
across  a  prairie  as  level  as  a  billiard- table,  just  as  the  light  was 
making  the  surrounding  scene  visible.  Here  was  the  mystic 
word  '  prairie  '  at  last  a  veritable  reality.  Since  my  early 
boyhood  that  word  had  meant  to  me  everything  that  was 
possible  in  the  breathing,  seeing,  and  grasping  of  freedom. 

We  came  suddenly  to  the  Platte  River,  a  huge,  sandy  bed 
more  than  a  mile  in  width,  wdth  several  streams  running  through 
portions  of  it.     A  mile  from  the  south  bank  stood  Fort  Kearney. 

The  sun  was  now  on  the  horizon,  and  the  mists  were  lifting. 
As  we  approached  the  wooden  palisades  of  the  fort,  we  saw 
two  big  black  objects  standing  on  the  prairie  about  a  thousand 
yards  on  one  side  of  the  buildings.  Buffalo  ?  Yes,  there  they 
were.  Another  mmute,  and  we  were  drawn  up  at  the  door 
of  the  commandant's  house  m  Fort  Kearney.  He  was  at  the 
door  to  give  us  welcome,  in  full  uniform,  and  with  a  broad- 
brimmed,  steeple-crowned  hat  on  his  head  ;  and  a  very  cheery 
welcome  it  was. 

'  Colonel,'  he  said  to  me,  *  these  early  Fall  mornings  have 
chills  in  them  ;  we  have  some  medicme  here  which  we  find 
very  effective  against  Platte  fever.'  A  large  bowl  of  hot 
Bourbon  whisky  egg-flip  was  on  the  table,  and  he  ladled 
us  tumblers  of  this  fever-kiher  all  round.  The  commandant 
was  one  of  the  most  typical  American  figures  possible  to 
imagine — tall,  thin,  gaunt,  wrinkled  many  years  in  advance 
of  his  age,  he  might  have  stood  as  the  model  for  a  picture  of  a 
primitive  New  England  Puritan  in  the  second  generation  from 
the  Mayflower.  Every  now  and  then  there  came  some  word 
into  his  speech  giving  at  first  rather  a  shock  to  any  ideas 
of  complete  Puritanic  perfection,  which  his  outward  semblance 
and  strong  nasal  utterance  might  have  occasioned.  He 
belonged  to  the  18th  Regiment  of  Infantry.  He  had  been 
many  things  in  his  time.  He  had  run  a  newspaper  in  Pitts- 
burg, made  three  sections  of  the  Indiana  and  Memphis  Railway, 
had  kept  a  store  in  Lake  Street,  Chicago,  had  fought  the 
Confederates  for  three  years  as  a  volunteer  colonel,  had  been 
in  as  many  general  actions  as  the  Duke  of  WeUington,  and 


SIGHTING  THE  BUFFALO  HERD  93 

when  the  Northern  army  was  reduced  at  the  end  of  the  war, 
he  contentedly  accepted  a  lieutenancy  in  the  regular  service 
of  the  United  States.  England  must  have  seen  many  men 
of  his  type  in  the  army  that  was  drawn  up  on  Blackheath  as 
Charles  the  Second  rode  past  to  London  in  1660. 

The  sight  of  the  two  big  buffalo  bulls  within  a  mile  of  the  fort 
was  so  strong  in  our  minds,  that  we  proposed  to  proceed  at 
once  in  pursuit  of  them.  This  proposal  for  immediate  action 
before  breakfast  seemed  to  tickle  his  fancy.  He  at  once 
abandoned  Salem  mannerisms,  and  descended  into  congre- 
gational colloquialisms.  '  Boys,'  he  said,  bringing  us  down 
with  a  run  to  our  proper  levels  from  previous  field  rank,  '  Boys, 
don't  you  trouble  about  them  darned  two  bull-buffaloes.  We  '11 
have  breakfast  in  half  an  hour,  the  horses  will  be  ready  at 
nine  o'clock,  the  shooting  irons  all  fixed  up,  and  we  '11  have 
the  hull  day  for  the  buffalo.'  He  was  right.  There  was  plenty 
of  time  and  plenty  of  buffalo  before  us. 

We  set  out  shortly  after  nine — the  old  commandant  leading 
— six  or  seven  men  on  ragged-looking  but  very  serviceable 
American  army  horses.  The  course  taken  led  across  the  dead 
level  prairie  which  surrounded  the  fort  towards  a  low  line  of 
sandy  ridges  due  south.  Our  two  bulls  had  vanished.  Nothing 
but  our  own  seven  or  eight  horses  moved  within  the  wide 
circle  of  our  vision. 

We  were  now  at  the  foot  of  the  sandy  ridge,  and  five  or  six 
miles  from  the  fort.  The  commandant  stopped.  '  Colonel,' 
he  said,  again  revertmg  to  service  form,  '  Colonel,  ride  up  that 
slope  ;  before  you  get  quite  to  the  top  of  it  take  some  place 
where  grass  is  growing,  so  as  to  let  you  look  over  without 
showing  your  heads  ;  get  the  shooting  irons  ready,  and  then 
I  give  the  word  "go."  ' 

We  did  as  he  directed,  approached  the  top  of  the  hill  cauti- 
ously, and  looked  over.  Before  or  since  I  never  saw  the  equal 
of  that  sight,  and,  what  is  more,  no  man  can  ever  see  it  again. 
The  ridge  on  which  we  rode  dropped  down  at  the  far  side 
into  a  prairie  that  quite  dwarfed  that  over  which  we  had  come  ; 
but  the  sight  that  struck  us  with  astonishment  was  not  the 
vastness  of  the  scene,  but  the  immensity  of  the  animal  life 
that  covered  it.  From  a  spot  three  or  four  hundred  yards 
from  where  we  stood,  far  off  to  a  remote  horizon  where  sky 


94     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

and  prairie  came  together  on  a  line  that  was  visible  to  us  only 
by  the  small  black  specks  of  life  that  were  on  it,  a  vast  herd 
of  grazing  buffaloes  stretched  away  to  the  south  ;  huge  animals 
in  the  foreground,  gradually  lessening  in  size  as  the  middle 
distance  was  reached,  and  then  dwindling  down  into  the  faint 
specks  I  have  spoken  of.  A  rifle  bullet  might  have  reached 
the  nearest  of  the  herd  ;  two  hours'  hard  riding  would  not  have 
carried  you  to  the  farthest  animal  where  the  earth  limit  was 
a  line  of  buffalo  backs.  The  commandant  gave  the  word,  and 
over  the  top  of  the  hill  we  went  spreading  out  to  right  and  left, 
as  we  rode  down  the  other  side.  The  mass  of  animals  was  so 
vast  that  there  was  no  picking  or  choosing  of  group  or  ground. 

It  was  strange  to  see  the  wave  of  alarm  pass  from  the  edge 
of  the  vast  herd  that  was  nearest  to  us,  on  through  the  mass 
itself.  The  buffalo  has  (or  we  should  say  had,  for  he  is  now 
practically  an  extinct  animal)  a  way  of  throwing  himself  away 
to  the  right  or  left  from  the  heavy  forepart  of  his  body,  pivoting 
as  it  were  on  his  fore  legs,  and  swinging  the  remainder  of  his 
body  to  either  side.  In  an  incredibly  short  space  of  time  the 
part  of  the  herd  we  could  see  was  in  motion  straight  away 
from  our  advance,  ploughing  at  full  gallop  over  the  prairie. 
It  was  now  a  case  of  each  man  for  himself.  I  was  soon 
at  the  heels  of  a  very  big  old  bull,  tearing  at  full  gallop 
after  him.  The  commandant  had  given  us  each  a  short  and 
handy  Spencer  carbine,  the  then  cavalry  arm  in  the  United 
States  Army.  It  loaded  through  the  butt,  by  an  action  of  the 
trigger  guard  ;  the  magazine  held  seven  cartridges  ;  and  as  the 
process  of  reloading  was  easily  effected  in  the  saddle,  it  formed 
a  very  handy  weapon  in  attack,  pursuit,  or  retreat.  All  these 
a  buffalo  hunt  afforded. 

When  my  particular  bull  found  that  he  was  outpaced,  he 
began  to  swing  from  side  to  side  in  his  gallop,  so  as  to  eye  his 
pursuer  first  from  one  eye  and  then  from  the  other.  I  took 
advantage  of  one  of  these  side  surges  to  give  him  a  shot,  the 
only  effect  of  which  was  that  he  planted  his  forefeet  well  in 
the  hght  soil  of  the  prairie,  and  pivoting  as  I  have  said,  swung 
round  upon  me  in  a  second.  It  was  now  my  turn  to  fly  and 
his  to  pursue  ;  but  again  finding  I  had  '  the  legs  of  him,'  he 
swerved  again  and  made  off  after  the  still  flj'ing  herd.  It  was 
some  little  time  before  I  caught  him  up  again  and  got  a  second 


THE  AMERICAN  TYPE  95 

shot  at  him,  and  again  came  the  same  tactics  and  the  same 
result.  At  last,  after  a  couple  of  miles  had  been  run,  and  some 
four  or  five  shots  fired,  he  turned  for  the  last  time,  pawed  the 
ground,  bellowed,  and  fell  on  his  knees  to  the  ground. 

I  had  now  time  to  look  around  ;  a  change  had  come  upon 
the  scene  in  that  two-mile  gallop.  ^ly  companions  were  not 
visible  on  any  side.  The  great  herd  was  still  careering  south, 
and  from  out  its  dust  came  the  sounds  of  a  few  distant  shots. 
I  continued  the  pursuit,  and  soon  came  up  again  with  the 
nearest  animals.  They  were  all  bulls — some  old,  some  young. 
The  same  firing,  charge,  and  pursuit  were  again  enacted,  and 
another  big  buU  was  on  the  ground.  The  tail  and  the  tongue 
were  taken,  one  as  a  trophy,  the  other  for  the  table,  and  again 
the  chase  went  on  southwards  ;  then  fatigue  of  horse  and  man 
called  a  halt,  and  after  a  rest  one  turned  back  towards  the 
north  to  look  for  the  ridge  from  which  the  fort  would  be  visible. 
Some  of  our  party  came  together  at  the  ridge,  others  turned 
up  singly,  and  in  the  evening  we  were  all  united  at  the  fort. 

At  this  time  Nebraska  was  still  a  Territory  of  the  United 
States.  Settlement  had  not  yet  penetrated  into  these  great 
wilds.  Indians  and  buffalo  were  still  numerous  ;  and  the  line 
of  forts  from  the  Missouri  westward  was  maintained  for  the 
protection  of  the  line  of  real  conquest,  the  railwaj^  which  had 
now  reached  this  central  spot  of  the  United  States  on  its 
progress  to  the  Pacific.  The  four  years'  Civil  War  had  arrested 
for  a  time  the  opening  up  of  this  vast  region,  and  now  the  wave 
of  settlement  was  in  motion  again,  with  a  force,  a  directness, 
an  energy,  and,  I  might  add,  a  sense  of  empire,  to  aU  of  which 
the  long  and  costly  war  seemed  only  to  have  added  strength 
and  power. 

What  impressed  me  most  strangely  about  the  men  I  now 
came  in  contact  with  was  the  uniformity  of  the  type  which 
America  was  producing — ^northern,  southern,  eastern,  western, 
miner,  hotel-keeper,  steamboat-man,  raihoad-man,  soldier, 
officer,  general, — the  mould  was  the  same.  '  There  has  got 
to  be  '  seemed  to  be  the  favourite  formula  of  speech  among 
them  all,  whether  it  was  the  setting  up  of  a  saloon,  the  bridging 
of  a  river,  or  the  creation  of  a  new  State.  '  There  has  got  to 
be '  this  railway,  this  drinking  bar,  this  city,  this  State  of  the 
Union.    Nobody  dreamt,  except  when  he  slept ;   everybody 


96     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

acted  while  he  was  awake.  They  drank  a  good  deal,  but  you 
seldom  saw  a  man  drunk,  and  you  never  saw  anybody  dead 
drunk.  They  sometunes  shot  each  other,  they  never  abused 
each  other  ;  they  were  generous,  open-hearted,  full  of  a  dry 
humour,  as  manly  as  men  could  be  ;  rough,  but  not  rude  ; 
civil,  but  never  servile  ;  proud  of  their  country  and  boastful 
of  it  and  of  themselves.  That  day  and  evening,  and  all  the 
other  days  and  evenings  I  spent  at  Fort  Kearney,  were  the 
same — good  fellowship,  good  stories  round  the  festive  board 
at  night,  hard  riding  and  hunting  aU  day  over  the  glorious 
prairies. 

The  accommodation  of  the  fort  was  limited,  and  we  four 
visitors  had  one  room  for  sleeping  in.  At  about  six  o'clock 
every  mornmg  the  fort  doctor  used  to  enter  this  room  with  a 
demijohn  of  Bourbon  whisky  on  his  shoulder,  from  which  he 
poured  four  doses  of  '  medicine  '  for  the  guests.  '  It  will  wake 
you,  boys,'  he  would  say  ;  and  sometimes  when  his  gait  was  not 
quite  as  steady  as  it  had  been  previous  to  the  dinner-hour  of 
the  evening  before,  he  would  lurch  forward  a  little  while  he 
was  preparing  to  pour  the  prescription  into  a  tumbler,  and 
send  a  liberal  dose  of  it  over  the  bed-clothes.  '  It  will  do  you 
no  harm,  boys,'  he  would  then  say  ;  '  it 's  good  outside 
and  inside.'  Later  in  the  day  he  compounded  several  other 
draughts  from  his  demijohns,  the  secrets  of  which  he  told  us 
he  had  discovered  when  he  served  on  the  Upper  Mississippi ; 
but  I  do  not  remember  to  have  ever  detected  the  flavour  of 
that  or  of  any  other  water  in  any  of  these  many  compounds. 

Before  returning  to  the  Missouri  we  visited  North  Platte, 
the  extreme  point  to  which  the  Pacific  Railway  then  ran. 
Civilisation,  as  it  moves  west,  is  compelled  to  halt  at  intervals, 
rest  itself,  and  collect  its  stragglers  before  it  moves  on  again. 
The  construction  of  the  line  was  proceedmg  at  the  rate  of  four 
miles  a  day,  so  the  termmal  station  was  constantly  moving  on, 
and  the  strangest  part  of  this  condition  of  movement  was  the 
effect  it  had  upon  the  motley  crowd  of  saloon  society  which 
had  congregated  to  supply  the  wants  of  the  army  of  navvies, 
constructors,  engineers,  etc.,  at  work  at  this  point.  These 
people  moved  like  the  baggage  carriers  of  an  Indian  column, 
carrying  on  their  own  backs,  in  waggons,  or  on  the  backs  of 
animals  the  household  gods  (or  demons)  of  their  various  trades. 


THE  COMING  CHANGE  97 

At  North  Platte  we  found  a  distinguished  officer  of  the  army 
in  command,  Colonel  Dodge,  one  of  the  foremost  frontier  men 
of  his  time,  and  the  descendant  of  officers  who  had  prepared  the 
road  for  the  army  of  settlement  in  the  West.  He  was  a  mighty 
hunter  too,  and  had  killed  every  variety  of  big  game  from  the 
Rocky  Mountains  to  the  Missouri.  We  told  him  of  the  week's 
hunting  we  had  had  on  the  Platte  prairies.  More  than  thirty 
buffalo  bulls  had  been  shot  by  us,  and  I  could  not  but  feel 
some  qualms  of  conscience  at  the  thought  of  the  destruction 
of  so  much  animal  life  ;  but  Colonel  Dodge  held  different  views. 
*  Kill  every  buffalo  you  can,'  he  said  ;  '  every  buffalo  dead  is 
an  Indian  gone.'  It  sounded  hard  then,  and  it  seems  hard 
now  ;  but  seven  years  after  this  time  I  crossed  by  railway 
from  California  to  New  York,  and  looking  out  at  this  same 
Platte  valley  I  saw  it  a  smilmg  plain  of  farms,  waving  crops, 
and  neat  homesteads.  The  hungry  crowd  from  overcharged 
Europe  had  surged  into  settlement  over  the  old  buffalo  pastures 
of  the  Platte.  '  Blessed  are  the  meek,  for  they  shall  inherit 
the  earth.'  It  was  right.  These  Crows,  Cheyennes,  Sioux, 
and  Blackfeet  Indians  were  no  doubt  splendid  hunters,  and 
fierce  raiders,  and  crafty  foemen,  but  no  man  could  say  they 
were  meek. 


CHAPTER  VII 

A  new  conception  of  life.     In  charge  of  the  '  Look  Outs.'     Montreal  and 
Quebec.     Home.     Father's  death.     A  hopeless  outlook  in  the  army. 

We  were  back  in  Omaha  again.  I  was  the  paymaster  of  the 
party,  and  carried  the  purse.  It  was  Hterally  a  bag  bulky 
and  weighty  with  greenbacks  and  a  depreciated  silver  currency 
at  that  time  used  in  the  States.  To  avoid  the  dual  dangers 
of  carrying  it  with  one  in  this  rowdiest  of  Western  cities,  and 
of  leaving  it  in  one's  trunk  in  the  hotel,  I  tried  a  middle  course 
one  evening  by  concealing  the  bag  inside  a  large  shooting  boot 
placed  casually  in  the  trunk.  Then  we  went  out  with  our 
United  States  Army  friends  to  do  the  sights  of  Omaha.  It 
was  late  when  we  got  back  to  the  hotel,  and  I  was  tired  and 
sleepy.  Before  getting  into  bed,  I  bethought  me  of  having 
my  boots  cleaned,  and  never  thinking  of  the  bag  of  money 
hidden  in  one  of  them,  I  took  the  boots  from  the  trunk  and 
put  them  outside  ray  door  in  the  passage.  Next  morning  I 
awoke  to  an  instant  consciousness  of  what  I  had  done.  To 
make  certain,  I  sprang  out  of  bed  and  went  to  the  trunk  : 
there  were  no  boots  in  it.  '  Molloj^'  I  said  to  my  room  com- 
panion, '  we  are  ruined  ;  we  have  no  money,  I  have  lost 
the  purse.'  Then  I  opened  the  door  and  looked  out  :  there 
stood  the  boots  cleaned.  It  was  not  always  a  certainty  that 
you  would  find  them  thus  poHshed  ;  but  unfortunately,  as  it 
seemed  to  me,  on  this  occasion  the  negro  boot-boy  had  come 
along  in  the  night  and  done  his  duty.  I  stooped  down  ;  the 
bag  was  in  the  boot ;  but  was  there  anything  in  the  bag  ? 
That  was  the  question.  '  Molloy,'  I  said  to  my  friend,  '  the 
bag  is  still  in  the  boot '  ;  but  here  I  stopped,  because  the  poor 
fellow  was  leaning  on  his  elbow,  just  awake,  and  regarding  me 
with  an  expression  of  face  that  plainlj'-;  told  me  he  thought 
I  was  quite  mad.  I  opened  the  bag.  Out  came  the  bundle 
of  greenbacks,  out  came  the  depreciated  dollars  and  other 

98 


THE  MAINE  LIQUOR  LAW  99 

currency  ;  all  there  untouched  to  the  last  '  red  cent.'  I  had 
scarcely  finished  countmg  the  money  when  the  door  opened 
and  a  wooUy-headed  black  appeared.  '  Boots  ! '  he  ejaculated 
in  a  frightened  manner,  and  then  vanished.  That  much 
elucidation  of  the  mystery  I  got,  and  no  more.  The  only 
explanation  I  could  arrive  at  afterwards  was  that  some  youth- 
ful understudy  in  the  blacking  business  of  the  hotel  had  got 
the  boots  in  the  first  instance,  and  finding  the  bag  of  dollars 
in  the  boot  when  he  was  cleaning  it,  had  been  frightened  at  the 
discovery,  and  thought  it  better  to  replace  them  at  the  room 
door  as  if  nothing  unusual  had  been  discovered  ;  that,  later 
on  in  the  morning,  he  had  related  his  strange  experience  to  the 
head  boss  black  bootblack  ;  and  that  that  functionary  had 
rushed  at  once  to  the  door  of  the  room  where  we  were,  only  to 
find  the  boots  inside  the  door  instead  of  outside,  hence  his  wild 
ejaculation  and  rapid  exit. 

Returning  by  the  route  we  had  come,  we  had  a  few  days' 
excellent  wild-bird  shooting  in  Iowa,  and  got  further  experience 
of  the  settlement  of  the  West  in  what  might  be  called  the  second 
line  of  the  army  of  invasion.  Iowa  was  one  of  the  States 
which  had  adopted  the  law  known  far  and  wide  as  the  Maine 
Liquor  Law.  No  intoxicating  hquors  could  be  bought  or 
served  within  the  Hmits  of  the  State  except  by  order  of  a  doctor. 
On  the  evening  of  our  arrival  at  the  Kttle  town  of  Boone,  a 
leading  citizen  came  to  visit  us.  He  was  friendly  and  familiar 
from  the  first,  and  he  made  no  secret  of  the  object  of  his  visit. 
The  prohibition  law  was  a  shameful  interference  with  the  Uberty 
of  the  American  citizen  ;  tea  was  not  a  beverage  upon  which 
the  hunter  could  successfully  pursue  his  vocation,  and  there- 
fore he  had  come  to  show  us  an  easy  means  by  which  this  in- 
justice could  be  set  right,  and  a  door  through  which  access 
might  be  obtained  to  the  hunter's  proper  paradise — that  door 
being  the  apothecary's.  If  we  would  enter  the  apothecary's 
shop  that  evening,  ask  for  a  small  bottle  of  Perry's  pain-killer, 
he,  our  visitor,  would  be  in  an  inner  room  behind  the  shop  ; 
a  prescription  would  be  duly  prepared  by  him,  for  '  he  was  a 
member  of  the  medical  profession,'  and  the  apothecary  would 
do  the  rest.  We  would  only  have  to  sit  round  and  swallow 
the  draughts  thus  prescribed  for  us. 

We  did  as  we  were  told,  and  soon  found  ourselves  in  an  inner 


100     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

apartment  of  the  apothecary's  residence,  in  which  some  eight 
or  ten  persons  were  abeady  assembled,  excellent  patients  all 
of  them  ;  they  took  their  physic  without  a  wrj'-  face.  Instead 
of  the  bottle's  being  shaken  before  it  was  taken,  it  was  the 
patient  who  underwent  the  shaking  process,  in  repeated  con- 
vulsions of  laughter,  after  he  had  swallowed  the  compound. 

As  at  Omaha,  we  found  that  the  high  rank  with  which  we 
had  been  invested  upon  our  arrival  soon  underwent  reduction. 
We  were  all  colonels,  some  of  us  even  generals,  at  the  commence- 
ment of  the  examination  and  when  the  prescription  was  being 
written  ;  but  when  we  had  paid  our  fees  and  were  about  to 
quit  the  professional  room,  our  medical  adviser  whispered, 
'  To-morrow  evening  at  the  same  hour,  boys  !  '  But  we  were 
far  away  to  the  north  after  the  duck,  the  wavies,  and  prairie 
fowl  when  the  next  evening  came.  These  men  were  largely 
ex-soldiers  who  had  served  under  Grant  or  Sherman,  and  who 
had  come  out  West  when  the  war  was  over.  They  were  very 
fine  fellows,  despite  the  little  idiosyncrasies  and  failings  to  which 
I  have  aUuded. 

Youth  does  not  concern  itself  much  with  tracing  back  facts 
to  causes  :  it  accepts  the  facts  it  sees  ;  the  causes  can  keep. 
\Vhen  I  look  back  now  upon  that  tremendous  struggle  through 
which  America  passed  in  the  early  'sixties,  I  can  see  in  it 
many  things  which  were  not  then  visible.  It  seems  to  me 
that  the  back  of  human  nature  must  always  be  ridden  by  some- 
body. Victor  Hugo  in  his  breakfast-room  thought  that  these 
riders  would  eventually  be  dismounted  and  driven  out :  I 
cannot  think  that  hope  wDl  ever  be  fulfilled.  Meanwhile  I 
have  come  to  believe  that  the  soldier  is  not  always  the  worst 
rider  that  human  society  can  put  into  its  saddle. 

When  we  returned  to  Western  Canada,  the  beautiful  season 
known  as  '  the  Fall '  was  still  in  being,  and  the  woods  were 
glorious  in  all  the  colours  of  their  dying  foliage.  But  that 
was  soon  over,  and  November  brought  fogs  and  chills  from  the 
great  lakes  by  which  the  peninsula  of  Upper  Canada  is  almost 
surrounded.  It  would  be  difficult  to  picture  a  more  desolate 
scene  than  the  aspect  presented  by  a  Canadian  half-cleared 
forest  landscape  when  the  leaves  are  gone  and  the  snow  has 
not  yet  come.  Gloom  has  followed  close  upon  the  heels  of 
glory  ;    the  wreck  of  the  forest  lies  on  every  side  in  fallen 


A  CANADIAN  FOREST  101 

trunks  and  blackened  remnants  ;  the  remaining  squares  of 
uncut  forest  trees  stand  bare  and  leafless,  flinging  out  great 
ragged  branches  into  the  cleared  spaces,  as  though  they  were 
stretching  arms  of  sorrow  over  the  graves  of  their  fallen  com- 
rades. The  settler  has  here  fought  this  forest  giant  for  forty 
years  ;  the  battle  is  now  over  ;  the  newcomer  is  the  victor  ; 
but  the  dead  still  lie  unburied,  and  the  twilight  of  the  coming 
winter  is  closing  upon  the  battlefield.  Here  and  there,  at  long 
intervals,  the  log-shanties  of  lately  arrived  immigrants  are  seen 
interspersed  with  the  more  comfortable  frame-homesteads  of 
the  older  inhabitants.  The  fight  which  has  cumbered  the 
ground  with  the  dead  giants  of  the  forest  has  at  least  given 
to  these  homesteads  a  spoil  of  the  finest  firewood  for  defence 
against  the  rigours  of  a  Canadian  winter.  At  the  time  I  speak 
of,  practicable  roads  were  few  in  this  region.  They  were  of 
three  kinds — '  gravel,'  '  corduroy,'  and  '  concession  '  roads,  the 
latter  being  only  the  surface  of  the  ground  cleared  of  wood. 
The  corduroy  roads  were  of  rough  trees  laid  together  over 
swamps  and  boggy  places.  The  gravel  roads  were  alone 
possible  for  travel  at  all  seasons.  One  of  these  gravel  roads 
led  from  Brantford  south-east  towards  Lake  Erie,  following 
the  high  left  bank  of  the  Grand  River  to  the  little  port  of 
Maitland.  During  my  absence  on  the  prairies  an  old  veteran. 
Colonel  Cotter,  who  had  been  in  the  69th  Regiment  sixty-five 
years  earher,  visited  the  regiment  in  Brantford.  He  lived  now 
on  the  shore  of  Lake  Erie,  some  forty  miles  from  Brantford. 
He  had  fought  as  a  captain  at  Quatre  Bras  and  at  Waterloo, 
and  had  even  served  in  the  short  war  in  Travancore  (of  which 
I  have  spoken  in  Chapter  iv.)  in  1809.  I  was  now  engaged 
in  completing  a  history  of  my  regiment,  begun  at  Aldershot 
two  years  earlier,  so  I  was  very  anxious  to  meet  this  old  veteran 
with  as  little  delay  as  possible.  At  eighty  years  of  age  the 
sand  is  running  out  of  Life's  hour-glass  very  quickly.  I  set 
out  for  Port  Maitland.  Twenty  miles  from  Brantford  a  little 
wooden  town  stood  on  the  north  side  of  the  Grand  River, 
called  Caledonia.  At  this  village  settlement  a  long  wooden 
bridge  crossed  the  Grand  River,  and  at  the  farthest  side  an 
Indian  reserve  had  been  marked  off  in  the  forest  for  the 
remnants  of  the  once  powerful  Six  Nation  Tribes, 

I  have  described  at  some  length  the  aspect  of  that  particular 


102     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

spot  in  Western  Canada  as  I  saw  it  in  the  early  winter  of  1867. 
I  was  at  that  time  full  of  energy,  of  a  boundless  desire  to  do 
something.  Nothing  tired  me,  nor  damped  the  ardour  that 
was  in  me  ;  but  a  distinct  and  single  purpose  of  life  I  had  not. 
To  go  seemed  enough  ;  it  did  not  matter  where.  Here  amid 
the  desolate  scener}"  on  the  Grand  River  a  new  conception  of 
life  seemed  all  at  once  to  open  before  me.  I  must  achieve  a 
definite  thing.  When  that  resolve  is  once  fixed  deep  and  solid 
in  the  mind,  the  opportunity  is  certain  to  come. 

I  found  the  old  veteran  69th  officer  in  a  very  dreary  domicile 
at  Lake  Erie.  Although  he  had  been  so  long  away  from  home, 
and  was  so  far  removed  from  those  early  years  of  service  in 
India  and  Belgium,  his  mind  was  clear  and  his  memory  of  the 
campaign  of  Waterloo  was  most  retentive.  As  we  sat  that 
night  over  the  fire,  he  told  me  of  many  episodes  in  those 
famous  distant  days.  He  described  the  rush  of  the  Cuirassiers 
in  the  rye-field  at  Quatre  Bras,  the  retreat  next  day  upon 
Waterloo,  and  the  night  of  rain  and  mud.  *  It  was  so  cold,' 
he  said,  '  and  as  the  ground  was  ankle-deep  in  mud,  I  preferred 
to  stand  and  walk  about  rather  than  to  lie  down.  Soon  after 
daybreak  I  was  ordered  to  take  my  company  to  the  village 
of  Waterloo,  to  mount  guard  at  the  inn  occupied  by  the  Duke 
of  Wellington.  As  we  marched  along  the  front  of  our  line, 
the  soldiers  were  busy  drying,  cleaning,  and  snapping  off  their 
firelocks  which  had  rusted  during  the  night.  Arrived  at  the 
inn  I  drew  up  in  front,  and  stood  at  ease.  Presently  an 
A.D.C.  came  out  and  told  me  to  return  to  the  regiment,  as 
the  Duke  was  about  to  leave  his  quarters  for  the  field. 
Shortly  after  I  got  back  the  first  gun  was  fired  from  the 
French  position.' 

Many  other  little  episodes  he  spoke  of,  the  following  among 
them. 

When  the  69th  had  formed  up  in  column,  a  commissariat 
waggon  drove  up  with  a  supply  of  rum  for  issue  to  the  men  ; 
and  with  it  came  the  quartermaster,  Matthew  Stevens,  the 
same  man  who  at  St.  Vincent,  eighteen  years  earher,  had  broken 
the  stern  gallery  of  the  San  Nicholas  and  led  the  way  for 
Nelson  to  the  quarter-deck  of  the  Spanish  vessel.  When  the 
rum  was  serving  out,  a  round  shot  struck  the  waggon  and  carried 
off  the  head  of  a  pioneer  employed  at  it.     '  Weel  noo/  said  the 


LIEUTENANT  REDVERS  BULLER  103 

quartermaster  gravely,  '  it  "s  aboot  time  for  a  peaceable  non- 
combatant  like  myself  to  gang  awa/ 

It  was  strange  to  hear  on  the  shore  of  Lake  Erie  in  Canada, 
from  the  lips  of  this  veteran,  these  old  stories  of  the  great 
battle  fought  on  the  plains  of  Belgium  fifty-two  years  earlier. 
But  the  stories  were  not  all  of  Waterloo.  He  described  at 
length  an  encounter  forced  upon  him  on  his  return  to  his 
native  County  Cork  after  Waterloo.  Some  local  hero  of  duelling 
celebritj-  determined  to  try  his  mettle  at  twenty  paces,  near 
MaUow.  The  challenge  was,  of  course,  accepted,  the  whole 
countryside  flocked  to  witness  the  fight,  and  a  field  of  a  couple 
of  thousand  spectators  was  ranged  in  two  long  lines,  extending 
far  on  either  side  of  the  combatants.  Shots  were  exchanged, 
no  one  was  hit,  honour  was  satisfied,  and  shouts  and  shillelaghs 
rent  the  air. 

Cotter  had  entered  the  69th  in  1804.  Like  many  other 
officers,  he  settled  in  Western  Canada  after  the  close  of  the 
war,  and  had  remained  there  ever  since. 

But  the  strangest  part  had  to  come.  Six  months  after  this 
interview,  on  the  18th  June  1868,  the  old  gentleman  came  to 
see  his  former  regiment,  then  in  London,  Canada  West ;  and 
we  put  him  standing  between  the  colours  in  the  front  rank, 
exactly  fifty-three  years  after  he  had  stood  in  square  with  them 
at  Waterloo.     He  died  a  few  months  later. 

These  military  settlers  had  not  been  happy  or  fortunate  in 
their  new  homes.  The  glamour  of  the  forest  life,  as  it  appeared 
in  the  pages  of  a  romance,  was  a  very  different  thing  from 
its  actual  reahty  in  the  backwoods  of  the  West.  The  greater 
number  of  these  old  soldiers  drifted  into  the  towns  or  came 
back  to  Europe.  Some  of  them  perished  miserably  in  the 
backwoods. 

In  the  spring  of  1868  I  was  appointed  officer  in  charge  of 
the  '  Look  Out '  on  the  Canadian  frontier,  in  succession  to 
Lieutenant  Redvers  BuUer  of  the  60th  Rifles,  who  had  held  the 
billet  for  more  than  a  year.  Thus  began  an  acquaintance 
which  lasted  upwards  of  forty  years,  and  which  was  destined 
to  run  through  many  distant  lands  and  strange  scenes.  At 
this  time  Redvers  Buller  was  the  best  type  of  the  regimental 
officer  possible  to  be  found.  Young,  active,  daring,  as  keen 
for  service  as  he  was  ready  to  take  the  fullest  advantage  of  it, 


104     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

he  stood  even  then  in  the  front  rank  of  those  young  and  ardent 
spirits  who  might  be  described  as  the  ruck  of  army  Ufe  which 
is  waiting  to  get  through.  We  had  met  at  Brantford  during  one 
of  his  monthly  visits  to  the  *  Look  Outs.'  These  were  small, 
detached  parties  of  old  and  reUable  soldiers,  selected  from  the 
regiments  in  Western  Canada,  and  placed  at  certain  points 
along  the  frontier  for  the  purpose  of  intercepting  deserters 
to  the  United  States. 

Early  in  May  1868  I  relieved  Buller  of  this  frontier  duty. 
Needless  to  say  that  the  work  was  congenial  to  me  in  every 
respect.  I  had  to  visit  the  various  posts  along  the  frontier 
once  in  every  month.  They  were  about  fifteen  in  number, 
some  in  places  that  could  be  reached  only  by  road,  and  in  the 
circuit  of  the  whole  entailing  a  round  of  about  fifteen  hundred 
miles  each  month.  The  circle,  which  had  London  as  its  centre, 
embraced  forts  on  Lake  Huron,  Lake  St.  Clair,  and  Lake  Erie, 
thence  inland  to  Caledonia,  and  northward  to  Paris,  Stratford, 
and  Adelaide. 

Summer  was  now  over  the  land,  and  the  forest  country  was 
as  beautiful  m  June  as  before  in  November  it  had  been  dreary. 
To  the  west  of  London  great  tracts  were  still  in  forest,  and 
through  these  the  railway  ran  in  a  vast  avenue,  cut  deep  and 
straight  through  woods  of  beech  and  maple.  South  of  the  line 
at  a  place  named  Watford,  a  region  known  as  the  Brooke 
Swamp  extended  for  miles.  It  had  the  reputation  of  holding 
deer,  and  it  was  said  that  even  a  few  bears  were  stiU  to  be 
found  in  it.  I  determined  to  explore  it.  In  the  inn  at  Watford 
I  was  directed  to  the  house  of  an  inhabitant  who  was  said  to  be 
the  village  sportsman.  Yes,  he  knew  the  swamp,  and  he  had 
heard  of  that  bear.  So  we  started  together  next  morning. 
In  the  evening  we  had  reached  a  log-hut  in  which  a  couple 
of  lumbermen  were  at  work.  We  slept  there,  and  spent  all  the 
next  day  from  morning  to  night  seeking  anything  we  could 
get,  and  finding  neither  deer  nor  bears.  In  the  afternoon 
we  happened  to  meet  a  soUtary  Indian  hunter  ;  my  friend 
the  village  sportsman  shook  his  fist  at  the  lone  stranger  and 
cursed  him.  '  What  has  he  done  to  injure  you  ?  '  I  asked. 
'  Injure  me  ! '  he  answered,  '  the  devil  will  never  stop  until  he 
has  killed  that  bear.'  '  But  the  bear  is  as  much  his  as  it  is 
ours,'  I  said  ;    '  probably  that  poor  devil's  ancestors  have 


A  PROPOSED  SPECULATION  105 

hunted  bears  in  this  forest  ever  since  it  has  been  a  forest.' 
'  Wall,  I  wouldn't  leave  a  red-skin  alive  in  the  land  if  I  had 
my  way,'  he  answered.  Here  in  this  Canadian  backwood 
as  in  the  prairies  of  the  Platte,  twelve  hundred  miles  farther 
west,  the  sentiment  was  precisely  the  same. 

I  got  back  to  Watford  very  tired  after  this  fruitless  chase 
of  three  days,  and  was  glad  to  find  in  the  little  wooden  inn 
supper  ready.  At  the  table  with  me  there  sat  a  curious- 
looking  man  of  that  peculiar  type  of  American  known  as  the 
'  down-Easter ' — sharp,  determined,  of  restless  eye,  straight 
upper  lip,  and  firm-set  lower  jaw.  '  Stranger,'  he  said,  after 
a  bit,  *  you  'ave  bin  to  the  Brooke  Swamp  ;  now  don't  tell  me 
'twas  arter  bars  j^'ou  were  for  three  days  in  that  darned  hole. 
No,  sirree,  'twas  arter  lumber,  or  petroleum  oil,  or  some  other 
fixen,  I  guess  you  were.  I  don't  want  to  go  into  that  thar 
swamp  myself,  for  I  've  got  a  wife  and  family  ;  but  as  sure  as 
my  name  is  Horatio  Nelson  Case,  thar  's  money  in  that  swamp, 
and  you  've  bin  arter  it  those  three  days.'  It  was  with  con- 
siderable difficulty  that  I  could  persuade  my  chance  companion 
that  it  was  a  real  live  '  bar,'  and  not  a  bar  of  gold  I  had  been 
after  ;  and  then  I  think  the  very  absurdity  of  the  idea  seemed 
to  strike  him  as  so  original  that  he  quite  '  cottoned  to  me,'  as 
being  entirely  out  of  his  own  line  in  thought  and  action.  He 
first  told  me  every  detail  of  his  own  life  and  family — who  his 
wife  was,  the  number  of  children  they  had,  the  various  occu- 
pations he  had  filled,  and  he  finally  wound  up  by  asking  if  I 
was  disposed  to  join  him  in  a  speculation  which  would  have 
for  the  theatre  of  its  effort  this  same  swamp  of  Brooke  ?  He 
had  been  told  that,  back  in  the  swamp,  there  were  fine  ridges 
of  higher  ground  which  bore  heavy  timber  ;  and  he  was  very 
desirous  of  getting  some  trustworthy  information  upon  these 
tracts  of  higher  ground.  I  told  him  that  what  he  had  been  told 
was  correct ;  there  were  many  such  ridges  well- timbered,  where 
the  land  was  as  dry  as  that  on  which  the  village  stood.  This 
seemed  to  banish  the  last  shred  of  doubt  from  his  mind.  If  I 
had  had  speculative  outlooks  regarding  the  swamp,  I  should 
have  kept  this  knowledge  to  myseK  :  I  might  be  a  fool,  but 
it  was  clear  I  was  not  a  knave.  He  ended  by  proposing  a 
joint  partnership  in  the  purchase  of  some  thousand  acres  in 
the  so-caUed  swamp.     I  was  to  find  the  money  ;    he  would 


106     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

furnish  the  brains.  I  told  him  I  didn't  like  the  arrangement ; 
that  it  was  liable  to  end  in  his  getting  all  my  money,  and  in 
my  having  only  a  portion  of  his  brains.  This  seemed  to  tickle 
his  fancy.  We  exchanged  names  and  addresses,  and  I  left 
Watford  at  midnight  with  a  large  card  in  my  pocket  on  which 
was  printed  Horatio  Nelson  Case,  Postmaster,  City,  Ont.  A 
few  weeks  later  I  received  a  letter  from  Horatio,  proposing 
another  scheme  for  my  consideration.  It  was  the  purchase 
of  a  square  block  of  forest  lying  further  to  the  west  in  the 
neighbourhood  of  a  place  called  Petrolia,  where  oil  in  some 
quantity  had  already  been  discovered.  Horatio  had  visited 
this  new  oil  field,  and  had  fixed  up  in  his  mind  some  distinct 
theories  about  it.  The  forest  was  so  dense  that  it  was  not  at 
all  easy  to  determine  the  general  set  and  direction  of  the  sub- 
terranean oil  stream  which  had  been  tapped  here  and  there  ; 
but  his  observations  had  led  him  to  think  that  the  trend  of  the 
oil  was  in  the  direction  of  this  square  of  forest -land,  which  he 
proposed  to  acquire  at  a  cost  of  eight  hundred  pounds.  Had 
I  that  sum  of  money  ?  No.  Not  in  the  least  disconcerted 
by  this  negative,  he  asked  how  much  I  could  command. 
Perhaps  four  hundred.  Was  there  any  other  officer  in  the 
regiment  who  would  be  willing  to  put  down  a  similar  sum  ? 
I  went  to  the  ground  and  saw  for  myself  the  correctness  of  the 
general  idea  upon  which  he  was  working.  The  well  in  which 
oil  had  been  struck  did  seem  to  follow  a  rough  sort  of  line 
through  the  trees.  If  you  stood  at  one  end  of  the  hideous 
line  of  scaffolding,  which  marked  the  mouth  of  a  well,  you  saw 
that  while  to  the  right  or  left  of  that  line  wells  were  doing  little, 
the  general  continuation  of  the  line  had  along  it  more  pros- 
perous borings.  Our  proposed  block  of  two  hundred  acres 
lay  on  that  line  of  continuation  about  a  mile  deeper  in  the 
forest.  The  end  of  the  matter  was  that  another  officer  joined 
me  in  this  oil  venture  ;  and  Horatio  Nelson  Case,  Lieut.  W.  F. 
Butler,  and  Ensign  Albert  P.  Wodehouse  became  the  joint 
owners  of  two  hundred  acres  of  forest  in  the  vicinity  of  Petrolia, 
Ontario,  sometime  in  the  early  part  of  1869, 

Before  the  purchase  could  be  effected,  however,  the  regiment 
had  moved  from  London  to  Montreal.  My  delightful  roving 
occupation  at  the  '  Look  Out '  was  over,  and  I  was  once  more 
'  cribbed,  cabined,  and  confined  '  within  the  limits  of  a  big 


WIDER  HORIZONS  107 

city  in  the  depth  of  a  Lower  Canadian  winter.  As  soon  as  I 
could  obtain  leave,  I  was  back  again  in  Western  Canada. 
Horatio  was  more  sanguine  than  ever.  The  line  of  wells  in 
which  oil  had  been  struck  was  slowly  but  steadily  drawing 
nearer  to  our  dark  block  in  the  forest.  Only  two  other  blocks 
of  forest-land  now  intervened  between  our  possession  and  the 
latest  find  in  the  new  oil  field.  The  money  must  be  got  at  once, 
or  all  our  anticipations  would  be  dashed  to  pieces. 

The  tendency  to  change  the  stations  of  our  regiment  still 
clung  to  us,  and  in  the  spring  of  1869,  while  I  was  still  in  the 
West,  we  were  moved  from  Montreal  to  Quebec. 

I  rejoined  at  the  latter  place  in  June.  Two  years  had  not 
elapsed  since  I  had  landed  there  for  the  first  time  ;  but  what  a 
change  had  these  few  months  wrought  in  the  aspect  of  life  to 
my  mind  ! 

This  America  was  a  great  mind-stretcher.  All  these  lakes, 
these  immense  prairies,  these  deep  forests,  these  rivers  of  which 
the  single  lengths  are  greater  than  the  width  of  the  ocean  be- 
tween Canada  and  Europe ;  all  the  throbbing  of  the  life  that  one 
saw  everywhere,  on  road  and  river,  in  the  cities,  on  the  plains  ; 
this  great  march  that  was  ever  going  on — all  seemed  to  call  with 
irresistible  voice  to  throw  one's  little  lot  into  the  movement. 
It  all  seemed  the  exact  opposite  of  the  profession  to  which  at 
this  time  I  had  given  ten  years  of  my  life.  There  one  seemed 
to  be  going  round  in  a  circle  ;  here  the  line  of  march  was 
straight  to  the  west.  I  had  seen  a  sunset  over  the  prairies  of 
Nebraska,  and  the  dream  of  it  was  ever  in  my  mind — a  great 
golden  mist,  a  big  river  flowing  from  it,  a  dark  herd  of  buffaloes 
slowly  moving  across  the  prairie  distance  to  drink  at  the 
river,  and  the  sun  himself  seeming  to  linger  above  the  horizon 
as  though  he  wanted  to  have  a  longer  look  at  the  glory  he  had 
made  below. 

In  my  '  Look  Out '  wanderings  I  had  frequently  to  visit  a 
little  lake — the  Blue  Lake — which  lay  in  the  forest  a  few  miles 
north-west  of  Brantford.  I  had  a  cotton-wood  canoe  and  a 
tent,  and  with  these  in  possession  youth  has  a  *  free  pass  ' 
wherever  water  flows,  or  trees  grow.  The  Blue  Lake  was  a 
very  beautiful  spot  ;  no  one  had  built  above  its  shores  or  bored 
beneath  them  ;  the  larger  forest  trees  were  mostly  gone,  but 
another  growth  had  sprung  up,  and  the  sheet  of  clear  blue 


108     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :  AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

winding  water  lay  in  as  perfect  repose  and  reflection  of  shore 
and  foliage  as  though  no  white  man  had  ever  placed  his  burden 
upon  the  land  of  Canada. 

I  determined  to  cross  the  Atlantic  ;  raise  the  four  hundred 
pounds  necessary  to  begin  a  partnership  with  Horatio  Nelson 
Case ;  and,  even  if  we  failed  to  strike  oil,  to  strike  out  some 
line  in  life  other  than  that  military  one  which,  so  far,  seemed 
to  lead  to  nothing. 

I  sailed  from  Quebec  early  in  September  in  the  Moravian. 
We  took  the  northern  channel  between  Newfoundland  and 
Labrador,  saw  lots  of  icebergs  after  passing  Belleisle,  and 
reached  Ireland  after  the  usual  rough  passage.  I  have  sailed 
in  many  good  and  bad  vessels  in  my  time,  but  I  can  truthfully 
declare  that  I  never  sailed  with  a  bad  sea-captain.  I  do 
not  mean  only  in  the  mere  sense  of  his  profession  ;  I  mean 
the  man  himself.  He  is  the  very  best  man  this  Empire  pro- 
duces ;  the  salt  of  the  sea  and  the  soul  of  the  land  are  in  him. 
He  is  as  superior  to  the  men  by  whom  he  is  employed  as  the 
army  ofi&cer  is  better  than  his  departmental  chief,  and  the 
naval  officer  is  above  his  official  admmistrator.  These  three 
classes  of  captains  stand  for  the  honour  of  English  commerce, 
the  fame  of  England's  arms  by  land,  and  her  naval  superiority 
at  sea.  Men  may  cozen  in  the  counting-house,  be  witless  at 
the  War  Office,  and  play  Dreadnoughts  or  Donnybrook  in 
Whitehall  ;  but  if  England  holds  on  to  her  captains  by  sea 
and  land  she  will  pull  through  in  the  end.  In  the  Services 
the  servants  have  ever  been  better  than  the  masters. 

After  my  arrival  at  home,  I  made  every  effort  I  could  think 
of  to  prevent  what  was  then  looked  upon  as  the  worst  of  pro- 
fessional disasters  from  happening  to  me — namely,  being  pur- 
chased over  by  junior  subalterns  for  the  rank  of  captain.  It 
was  useless.  At  that  time  I  had  neither  friends  at  the  Horse 
Guards,  nor  money  at  the  bankers'.  My  father  was  in  very 
bad  health  ;  my  colonel  was  a  complete  military  nonentity  ; 
my  captain,  once  a  very  able  man,  was  getting  softening  of 
the  brain,  and  had  been  obliged  to  retire  from  the  service. 
Altogether,  the  outlook  was  about  as  hopeless  as  it  could  weU 
be  ;  and  to  crown  the  catalogue  of  misfortune,  a  long  space 
of  regimental  stagnation  in  promotion  had  just  broken,  and 
many  purchase  steps  in  rank  were  going. 


PARIS  IN  HER  GLORY  109 

With  some  difficulty  I  was  able,  through  the  kindness  of 
relations,  to  raise  the  four  hundred  pounds  required  by  Horatio 
Nelson  Case  for  the  purchase  of  the  block  of  forest-land  at 
Petrolia  ;  but  whether  that  venture  was  destined  to  pour  oil 
upon  the  troubled  waters  of  my  fortune,  or  to  add  yet  another 
item  to  the  already  long  list  of  professional  calamities,  had  still 
to  be  proved. 

In  the  midst  of  those  disappointments  I  received  an  urgent 
message  from  my  old  captain,  then  residing  in  England,  to  go 
to  him.  I  found  him  in  a  deplorable  condition  of  mental 
illness.  He  who  had  been  a  model  of  all  the  military  virtues, 
a  strict  disciplinarian,  and  a  most  high-minded  gentleman, 
was  now  filled  with  the  wildest  delusions.  His  friends  could 
do  notliing  with  him.  To  relieve  the  strain  upon  his  family, 
and  to  try  what  change  of  scene  would  do  in  his  case,  it  was 
proposed  that  he  and  I  should  go  to  Paris.  We  proceeded 
thither.  At  first  everything  went  well.  It  was  my  first  visit 
to  the  French  capital,  and  my  poor  friend  appeared  to  take 
pleasure  in  showing  the  sights  to  me.  In  December  1869 
Paris  W£is  in  the  meridian  hour  of  her  glory  ;  Baron  Haussmann 
had  put  the  finishing  touches  to  the  great  streets  and  edifices 
of  the  Second  Empire.  I  shall  never  forget  the  effect  of  the 
blaze  of  light  which  the  Place  de  la  Concorde  presented  as  we 
turned  mto  it  on  a  clear  frosty  December  night,  the  last  of  the 
year,  an  hour  after  our  arrival  from  dull,  grimy,  leaden  London. 
All  the  long  lines  of  sparkling  streets  radiated  from  this  brilliant 
centre  ;  the  Imperial  Court  was  in  residence  at  the  Tuileries, 
and  the  windows  of  that  famous  palace  shone  through  the 
leafless  trees. 

We  turned  into  the  Place  Vendome,  and  stood  at  last  at  the 
foot  of  the  Roman  column,  with  all  the  bronze  of  Austerlitz 
wreathed  round  it,  and  the  figure  of  the  great  captain  dimly 
discernible  in  the  starHght  above.  To-morrow  the  first  visit 
of  daylight  would  be  made  to  his  tomb  beyond  the  river.  It 
all  seemed  so  real  on  that  closing  night  of  the  old  year  ;  and 
yet  aU  this  panorama  of  pride  and  power,  seemingly  fixed 
and  soHd  as  the  earth  upon  which  it  stood,  had  at  that  moment 
little  more  than  six  months'  lease  of  life. 

Less  than  a  year  and  a  half  later  I  was  destined  to  stand 
in  this  Place  de  la  Concorde  again,  and  to  see  the  palaces  in 


no     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

smouldering  ashes,  the  statues  rent  with  cannon-shot,  and 
the  great  column  and  its  mighty  figure  lying  prone  in  the  dust 
of  the  Place  Vendome.     But  that  is  anticipating. 

The  mental  affliction,  which  seemed  at  first  to  have  calmed 
down  in  my  poor  friend,  soon  began  to  show  itself  again.  One 
night  we  had  come  back  to  our  hotel  in  the  Rue  St.  Honore 
from  the  Porte  St.  Martin  theatre,  and  had  retired  to  our 
rooms.  I  occupied  a  room  inside  that  in  which  my  old  captain 
slept.  We  were  speaking  to  each  other  through  the  doorway, 
and  some  trifling  difference  of  opinion  had  arisen  in  our  con- 
versation. Suddenly  he  raised  his  voice  and  shouted,  '  Now 
I  '11  have  it  out  with  you  for  bringing  my  brother  over  from 
Cork.'  (When  his  iUness  had  reached  an  acute  stage  a  fort- 
night earlier  in  England,  I  had  thought  it  necessary  to  telegraph 
for  his  only  brother,  who  was  in  garrison  in  Ireland.)  Then 
1  heard  a  thud  on  the  floor  of  the  outer  room,  the  door  was 
flung  open,  and  in  came  my  old  commander,  mad  with  rage, 
and  shouting,  '  I  '11  throw  you  out  of  the  wmdow.' 

I  was  a  much  younger  as  well  as  a  stronger  man,  and  quickly 
as  he  had  come  I  was  out  of  bed  and  on  the  floor  ready  for 
him.  He  came  to  within  a  few  feet  of  where  I  stood,  then 
stopped  short,  rushed  to  the  window,  flung  it  open,  crying, 
'  I  '11  throw  myself  out.'  The  drop  looked  ugly,  for  we  were 
two  or  three  floors  up,  and  the  courtyard  below  was  hardly 
visible  in  dim  lamplight.  Then  he  rushed  back  to  his  room. 
Next  morning  he  met  me  as  though  nothing  had  happened. 
But  I  had  had  enough  of  the  undertaking  now  :  we  squared  up 
accounts,  and  I  left  Paris.  A  few  days  later  the  poor  fellow 
got  into  an  altercation  with  a  Frenchman,  whom  he  accused  of 
having  pushed  against  him  as  they  were  leaving  the  door  of 
some  theatre.  My  friend  drew  a  sword  from  a  cane  which  he 
carried,  and  lunged  at  the  Frenchman,  who  fortunately  received 
the  blade  through  his  gibus-hat.  That  matter  was  settled  in 
some  way  or  other  ;  but  a  night  or  two  later  he  joined  a  demon- 
stration got  up  by  the  partisans  of  the  then  celebrated  Victor 
Noir,  and  he  was  promptly  arrested  by  the  police  and  lodged 
in  Mazas  Prison.  He  never  recovered  his  right  reason.  Nearly 
forty  years  later  I  had  a  curious  confirmation  of  the  character 
borne  by  my  old  commander  in  his  early  days.  Lord  Roberts 
said  to  me  one  day,  '  You  were  in  the  69th  Regiment.    You 


FATHER'S  DEATH  111 

must  have  known  my  old  schoolfellow  .'     '  Yes,  sir  ;  he 

was  my  captain  for  ten  years.'  '  When  I  went  to  school  at 
Clifton,'  continued  the  commander-in-chief,  '  he  was  the  best 
boy  in  the  school.     The  headmaster  said  to  me  when  I  went 

there,  "  Follow  the  example  set  by .     I  might  talk  a  long 

time  to  you,  but  I  could  not  say  more.     Do  as  he  does."  ' 

When  I  returned  to  Ireland  I  found  that  my  father's  health 
had  grown  worse.  Two  months  later  he  passed  quietly  away, 
and  we  laid  him  in  the  old  churchyard  of  Killardrigh,  by  the 
banks  of  the  river  and  at  the  foot  of  the  Galtee  mountain, 
both  of  which  he  had  lived  beside  and  had  loved  all  his  long 
life. 

The  ruined  church  at  Killardrigh  was  said  to  have  been 
named  after  a  high  king  of  Ireland,  an  '  Ard  High,'  who  met  his 
death  in  the  seventh  century  while  bathing  in  the  waters  of 
the  Suir.  If  the  story  be  true,  then  a  second  king  among 
men  was  laid  in  that  lone  graveyard  in  March  1870. 

I  had  now  to  return  to  my  regiment  in  Canada.  No  '.  Look- 
outs '  there,  and  no  outlooks  anywhere  else.  Regimental 
promotion  had  begun,  but  it  was  not  for  me  :  the  steps  were 
all  by  purchase.  I  made  a  last  attempt  on  the  Horse  Guards, 
and  was  kindly  informed  by  a  very  choleric  old  Peninsular 
MiUtary  Secretary,  who  had  a  terrible  reputation  for  vocabular 
vehemence  to  old  officers  (but  whom  on  this  and  other  occasions 
I  found  particularly  gracious  to  young  ones),  that  I  had  not 
a  ghost  of  a  chance.     Then  I  sailed  for  America. 


CHAPTER  Vin 

The  Red  River  Expedition.  Under  Colonel  Wolseley.  Fenians.  The 
purchase  system.  No  step  after  twelre  years'  service.  Paris.  The  end 
of  the  Commune. 

It  was  not  quite  correct  to  say  that  I  had  no  mihtary  outlook 
at  this  time.  There  was  a  remote  chance  that  a  disturbance 
which  had  arisen  on  the  banks  of  the  Red  River,  in  Manitoba, 
might  develop  into  some  occasion  of  active  service.  The  news- 
papers had  already  announced  that  regular  troops  would  be 
sent  from  Canada  to  Winnipeg  in  the  coming  summer.  The 
commander  of  the  Uttle  expedition,  Colonel  Wolseley,  had  been 
named.  I  had  met  him  once  or  twice  in  Montreal,  but  only 
in  the  sense  in  which  a  subaltern  without  any  record  can  meet 
a  colonel  who  has  a  very  distinguished  one.  I  sat  next  him  at 
an  inspection  dinner  one  evening,  and  when,  in  his  capacity  as 
Chief  of  the  Quartermaster-General's  Department  in  Canada, 
he  had  called  for  specimen  sketches  from  regimental  ofl&cers  in 
order  to  select  men  for  the  Survey  Service  in  Upper  Canada, 
I  had  sent  in  two  drawings,  the  very  indifferent  artistic  quality 
of  which  I  had  endeavoured  to  compensate  for  by  the  geo- 
graphical and  historical  associations  I  had  connected  with 
them.  One  was  a  plan  of  the  cantonment  in  Tonghoo  in 
Burmah,  the  other  of  the  field  of  Waterloo  ;  neither  had  suc- 
ceeded. I  was  not  among  the  selected  surveyors.  This, 
however,  did  not  prevent  my  sending  a  cable  message  from 
Ireland  when  I  saw  that  Colonel  Wolseley  was  named  com- 
mander of  the  expedition  to  the  Red  River.  Among  the  many 
vices  which  the  ocean  cable  has  introduced  into  the  world,  it 
has  at  least  one  virtue — the  absent  can  sometimes  be  almost 
right.  On  this  occasion  my  long  shot  hit  its  mark,  and  although 
I  did  not  know  that  I  had  struck  the  target  at  Ottawa,  I  fol- 
lowed the  shot  as  soon  as  possible.  The  longer  the  range  the 
more  likely  is  it  that  somebody  may  rub  out  the  hit  before 

112 


COLONEL  WOLSELEY  113 

you  can  get  to  the  marking  butt.  This,  indeed,  had  ahnost 
happened.  Everybody  wanted  to  get  on  this  expedition, 
which,  small  as  it  was  in  numbers,  had  such  an  immense 
*  beyond  '  in  it,  a  beyond  into  which  steam  power  did  not  enter, 
where  there  were  no  roads,  where  there  were  still  real  live 
Indians  and  great  silent  lakes,  vast  woods  and  rushing  rivers, 
and,  more  than  these,  boats  and  canoes  in  which  brams  would 
be  at  the  helm,  skill  at  the  prow,  and  youth  and  muscle  working 
at  the  oars. 

Travelling  via  New  York,  I  reached  Torontv")  just  in  time  to 
find  Colonel  Wolseley  still  there.  He  was  to  start  for  Lake 
Superior  the  following  day  ;  all  the  staff  officers  had  been  ap- 
pointed ;  there  was  '  no  berth  vacant,'  he  said.  I  suggested 
one  :  that  of  an  Intelligence  officer  who,  travelling  through  the 
United  States,  might  perhaps  be  able  to  get  to  the  column  in 
some  part  of  the  last  three  hundred  of  the  six  hundred  miles 
lying  between  Lake  Superior  and  the  Red  River.  He  caught 
at  the  idea,  directed  me  to  proceed  to  Montreal  at  once,  and  see 
General  Lindsay  there,  adding  that  he  would  write  that  night 
to  him. 

At  this  time  Colonel  Wolseley  was  in  the  prime  of  manhood, 
somewhat  under  middle  height,  of  weU-knit,  well-proportioned 
figure  ;  handsome,  clean-cut  features,  a  broad  and  loity  fore- 
head over  which  brown  chestnut  hair  closely  curled  ;  exceed- 
ingly sharp,  penetratmg  blue  eyes,  from  one  of  which  the 
bursting  of  a  shell  in  the  trenches  at  Sebastopol  had  extin- 
guished sight  without  in  the  least  lessening  the  fire  that  shot 
through  it  from  what  was  the  best  and  most  briUiant  brain 
I  ever  met  in  the  British  army.  He  was  possessed  of  a  courage 
equal  to  his  brain  power.  It  could  be  neither  daunted  nor 
subdued.  His  body  had  been  mauled  and  smashed  many 
times.  In  Burmah  a  gingall  bullet  fired  within  thirty  yards 
of  him  had  torn  his  thigh  into  shreds  ;  in  the  Crimea  a  shell 
had  smashed  his  face,  and  blinded  an  eye  ;  but  no  man  who 
rode  beside  Wolseley  in  the  thirty  years  of  active  life  in  which 
I  afterwards  knew  him  could  ever  have  imagined  that  either 
in  his  grip  of  a  horse  or  his  glance  at  a  man  on  a  battlefield, 
he  had  only  half  the  strength  and  the  sight  with  which  he  had 
started  in  life.  I  never  knew  him  tired,  no  matter  what  might 
be  the  fatigue  he  underwent.     I  never  knew  his  eye  deceived. 

H 


in     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

no  matter  how  short  might  be  the  look  it  gave  at  a  man  or  a 
plan. 

I  went  at  once  to  Montreal,  saw  that  fine  soldier,  General 
Lindsay,  then  commanding  in  Canada,  and  found  him  favour- 
able to  my  proposed  appointment,  the  final  sanction  for  which 
rested  with  the  civil  authorities  at  Ottawa.  Meanwhile  I  was 
to  await  the  answer  at  Montreal. 

But  before  it  came  a  strange  Uttle  event  happened.  While 
we  were  all  looking  out  fifteen  hundred  miles  away  to  the 
north-west,  a  httle  flame  of  service  sprang  up,  close  at  our 
doors,  fift}^  miles  south  from  Montreal.  All  through  the  24th 
May  telegrams  were  arriving  at  the  headquarters  office  from 
places  on  the  Canadian  frontier,  and  over  the  boundary  line, 
from  Huntingdon  and  Hinchinbrook  on  our  side,  and  from 
Malone  and  Potsdam  Junction  on  the  other  side,  announcing 
the  arrival  of  bodies  of  armed  men  at,  or  near,  the  frontier. 
Of  course,  the  numbers  given  varied,  but  the  fact  of  the  gather- 
ings could  not  be  doubted.  The  news  came  from  our  own 
people  near  the  frontier,  and  from  men  in  the  Fenian  ranks 
on  the  other  side,  among  the  latter  being  a  man  who  years 
later,  under  the  name  of  Major  le  Caron,  became  weU  known 
in  London  at  the  time  of  the  Pigott  Conspiracy. 

The  INIiHtary  Secretary,  Colonel  Earle  (afterwards  killed  at 
Kirbekan  in  the  Soudan),  sent  for  me.  '  We  have  ordered  your 
regiment  up  from  Quebec.  It  will  arrive  here  by  train  to- 
morrow ;  you  will  join  it  at  the  railway  station,  and  proceed 
with  it  to  the  frontier  near  Huntingdon."  He  showed  me  the 
telegraphic  messages  received  from  that  quarter.  I  wired  at 
once  to  my  colonel  in  Quebec  that  I  would  meet  him  at  the 
railway  next  day  with  a  horse  ;  then  I  went  to  a  well-known 
keeper  of  a  hvery  stable.  He  had  a  good  saddle-horse — '  the 
Doctor  '  by  name,  a  big  chestnut  animal.  I  secured  this  war- 
horse  for  as  many  daj^s  as  might  be  needed,  and  was  then 
ready  for  any  eventuahty.  Later  in  the  day  I  received  a 
telegram  from  the  colonel  appointing  me  Intelligence  officer 
to  the  column,  which  was  to  consist  of  the  69th  Regiment, 
and  a  corps  of  Canadian  mihtia,  whose  headquarters  were  in 
the  town  of  Huntingdon,  in  the  neighbourhood  of  the  menaced 
jDoints. 

When  the  train  carrymg  the  69th  Regiment  arrived  at  the 


AFTER  THE  FENIANS  115 

Montreal  station,  I  was  there  to  meet  it.  It  was  pleasant  to 
meet  old  friends  again,  for  I  had  been  nine  months  away  in 
Europe,  and  there  was  much  news  to  hear  and  to  tell.  I  got 
*  the  Doctor  '  into  a  waggon  ;  and  the  train  moved  on,  after  a 
short  delay,  for  Lake  St.  Francis,  on  the  north  shore  of  which 
it  deposited  us,  bag  and  baggage.  A  couple  of  steamboats 
were  here  in  waiting  to  ferry  us  across  to  the  south  shore  of 
that  beautiful  lake,  and  from  there  the  march  to  Huntingdon 
began.  I  got  '  the  Doctor  '  off  the  boat  at  once,  and  rode  on 
in  advance  to  Huntingdon  to  gather  the  latest  information  at 
that  place.  The  distance  was  about  eight  miles,  the  last  two 
before  Huntingdon  was  reached  being  over  a  '  corduroy  ' 
road  through  a  bad  swamp.  It  was  dusk  when  I  got  to  Hunt- 
ingdon. In  the  Uttle  square  of  the  town  I  found  the  militia 
regiment  drawn  up,  ready  to  march  back  to  Lake  St.  Francis. 
The  staff  officer  attached  to  the  regiment  and  the  colonel  of 
militia  had  decided  upon  this  retrograde  movement  in  conse- 
quence of  reports  which  had  reached  them  of  the  enemy's 
movements  at  Hinchinbrook  on  the  Trout  River  some  six 
or  eight  miles  south,  and  adjacent  to  the  American  frontier. 
1  had  arrived  at  an  opportune  moment,  for  a  few  minutes 
later  the  regiment  would  have  abandoned  Huntmgdon  and 
begun  its  retreat  on  Lake  St.  Francis. 

I  had  known  the  staff  officer  at  Hythe  six  years  earUer. 
He  was  very  much  my  senior  in  rank  and  service  ;  but  I 
knew  that  to  give  up  the  town  of  Huntingdon  would  be  a  fatal 
mistake,  even  had  there  been  no  regular  troops  advancing  to 
support  that  position.  However,  I  had  to  proceed  cautiously.  I 
was  only  a  subaltern  ;  the  staff  officer  was  a  major,  and  he 
had  already  seen  service.  I  asked  him  to  come  with  me  a  httle 
distance  from  the  parade  where  we  could  not  be  overheard. 
I  first  got  from  him  the  information  which  had  decided  him 
to  retii'e.  It  was  generally  a  continuation  of  the  news  I  had 
heard  from  the  Military  Secretary  in  Montreal  on  the  previous 
day.     I  find  ui  an  old  notebook  some  of  these  messages  : — 

'  To  MacEachern,  Huntingdon. 

'  "  Fenians  got  large  reinforcements  last  night,  field-guns  and 
ammunition,  provisions  plentiful,  expect  fight  Wednesday."  Another 
message  reported  :  "Seven  hundred  well-armed  men  are  at  hand." 


116     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER:   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Another  from  Malone  reported :  "150  Fenians  here,  they  leave  for 
Trout  River."  Another  from  Potsdam  stated  that  "  two  companies 
Cavahy  and  three  ear-loads  of  men  had  arrived  there  from  Rome, 
no  fight  before  Saturday."  Another  from  South  Hinchinbrook 
said  :  "  Telegraph  operator  just  said  '  good-b3^e.'  Fenians  close  at 
hand,  expect  to  cross  frontier  to-day."  ' 

These  reports  from  different  places  on  the  frontier  showed 
that  Huntingdon  was  the  point  aimed  at  whenever  the  concen- 
tration near  the  frontier  was  sufficient  to  justify  a  movement 
over  the  line  ;  but  it  was  easy  to  see  also  that  there  was  not 
likely  to  be  anj"  advance  in  force  for  some  hours ;  and  in  any  case 
it  was  now  night,  the  69th  would  be  up  in  a  few  hours,  and  here 
MacEachern  and  his  merry  men  must  remain.  It  was  urged 
that  the  position  at  Huntingdon  was  not  a  good  one,  that  the 
Seafield  swamp,  with  onlj^  one  practicable  '  corduroy  '  road 
through  it,  lay  immediately  in  rear  of  the  little  town,  and  that 
the  supply  of  provisions  at  hand  would  only  suffice  for  a  few 
hours'  consumption.  These  facts  were  all  true,  so  far  as  rule 
ran  ;  but  when  you  put  3^our  foot  into  that  ready-made  boot 
it  is  well  to  have  elastic  sides  to  it. 

The  regiment  was  dismissed  to  their  tents,  and  an  hour  or 
two  later  the  69th  marched  into  Huntingdon.  Before  I  turned 
in  for  the  night  a  big  bearded  man  came  to  me.  '  I  have  two 
or  three  chaps  here,'  he  said,  '  and  we  have  horses  ;  we  would 
like  to  ride  with  you  to-morrow  to  the  line,  if  you  're  gwyne 
that  way.'  I  liked  the  look  of  the  man  and  his  chums,  and 
without  telling  him  where  I  was  '  gwyne  '  to,  I  said  I  would 
meet  them  there  in  the  market-place  at  daybreak,  three  hours 
later. 

A  cold  mist  lay  on  the  land  as  we  rode  out  of  Huntingdon 
at  four  next  morning,  taking  the  main  road  south.  I  had  the 
old  scout  and  four  younger  men  as  companions.  After  a  couple 
of  miles  we  lessened  the  pace,  and  began  to  examine  roads 
that  led  to  right  or  left.  It  was  about  six  o'clock  when  we  got 
to  Hinchinbrook.  It  was  only  a  cross-roads  with  three  or  four 
frame  houses  ;  the  mist  had  lifted,  the  sun  was  out,  and  one 
could  see  well  on  either  side.  The  post-office  and  telegraph 
were  closed  ;  a  man  came  out  of  one  of  the  houses,  and  for  a 
moment  eyed  us  suspiciously  ;  but  the  scout  soon  made  matters 
straight,  and  we  got  the  news,  such  as  it  was.     There  was  a 


ENCOUNTER  AT  TROUT  RIVER  117 

camp  of  Americans  just  over  the  border  ;  a  few  of  their  scouts 
had  been  here  the  evening  before.  The  border  line  was  a  mile 
and  a  half  farther  ou. 

I  sent  one  of  the  men  back  with  this  information,  sent  two 
more  along  the  right  and  left  roads,  and  then  rode  on  with  the 
old  scout  to  the  front.  We  trotted,  but  kept  on  the  grass 
border  of  the  road.  The  country  was  as  green  and  fresh  as  the 
end  of  May  could  make  it ;  apple-trees  were  in  blossom,  and 
a  strip  of  deep  forest  on  the  right  was  all  in  leaf.  Trout  River 
lay  at  a  little  distance  to  the  left  ;  about  three-quarters  of  a 
mile  farther  on  a  large  hop  field  crossed  the  road  ;  the  hops 
were  already  well  up  the  poles,  affording  good  cover  the  height 
of  a  man.  We  went  cautiously  through  this  cover,  and  still 
more  quietly  as  we  approached  the  boundary  line.  There  was 
a  bend  in  the  road  before  it  got  to  the  frontier,  and  a  skirting 
of  wood  at  the  bend,  then  a  straight  bit  which  ran  direct  to  the 
line.  The  road  was  quite  empty  for  five  or  six  hundred  yards 
forward.  We  rode  on  to  the  line.  It  was  marked  by  a  square 
stone  set  in  the  earth  ;  two  or  three  houses  stood  in  trees  just 
beyond  the  boundary  on  the  American  side.  An  early-rising 
inhabitant  or  two  were  on  foot  here,  but  uoinformation  was 
to  be  gleaned  from  them. 

Of  course,  I  would  not  cross  the  line,  and  stiU  I  did  not  like 
to  go  back  from  it  without  any  news,  so  I  waited  with  the  scout, 
looking  up  the  road  which  ran  straight  on  American  territory 
for  nearly  a  mile.  Suddenly  a  body  of  men  marching  in 
columns  of  fours  began  to  wheel  out  from  a  cross-road  about 
five  hundred  yards  forward,  on  the  right  side.  They  came 
straight  for  the  line,  arms  at  the  slope,  and  the  sun  bright  on 
the  '  unbrowned '  barrels  of  their  rifles.  I  made  them  out 
roughly  to  be  about  two  or  three  hundred.  Their  appearance 
seemed  to  put  thought  and  tongue  into  one  of  the  early  in- 
habitants. '  Them  's  the  boys,'  he  said.  '  I  guess  you  chaps 
had  better  go  back  now/  The  head  of  the  column  was  coming 
along  at  a  brisk  pace.  We  took  the  hint  and  cantered  back 
along  the  road  we  had  come  until  we  got  to  the  bend  I  have 
mentioned  ;  there  we  pulled  up  imder  cover  of  the  trees  and 
waited.  Thinking  that  the  advancmg  '  boys '  might  have 
halted  on  the  line  and  not  entered  our  territory,  I  turned  my 
horse  and  walked  him  round  the  bend  whence  I  could  see 


118     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER:   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

the  road  to  the  frontier.  There  was  no  mistake.  The  '  bo3's  ' 
had  come  along,  and  were  within  three  hundred  yards  of  me, 
well  within  our  ground.  Thej'  shouted  something,  and  I  saw 
the  rifles  of  the  leading  fours  coming  down  to  the  '  ready/  I 
Wheeled  '  the  Doctor  '  on  his  tracks  and  galloped  round  the 
bend,  a  few  bullets  going  wide  through  the  trees  as  I  went. 
We  rode  back  to  Hinchinbrook,  and  awaited  there  the  arrival 
of  our  column.  It  soon  arrived.  I  showed  the  colonel  the 
ground  ;  there  were  no  men  on  the  near  side  of  the  hop  field, 
but  as  I  had  seen  them  almost  up  to  that  cover,  they  must  be 
there.  The  river  would  be  on  their  right,  the  forest  on  their 
left ;  a  front  of  half  a  mile  lay  between  the  two  flanks.  We 
went  forward  as  soon  as  this  was  explained,  the  69th  along  the 
road  and  in  the  fields  on  either  side  of  it,  the  militia  battalion 
in  support,  some  in  the  wood.  My  old  compan5%  No.  10,  led 
the  advance.  A  new  captain  had  it :  he  had  purchased  his 
company  over  mj'  head,  but  we  were  old  and  tried  friends  ; 
besides,  I  was  a  free-lance  now.  and  could  ride  where  I  liked, 
BO  I  liked  the  old  soldiers  of  No.  10,  nearlj'-  every  man  of  whom 
I  knew  intimately. 

As  we  turned  into  the  straight  road  leading  to  the  hop  field, 
I  could  see  that  the  '  snake  '  fences  on  either  side  near  the 
hops  had  been  taken  down  and  the  timbers  made  into  an 
obstacle  across  the  road  ;  behind  this  fence  a  picket  of  about 
a  dozen  men  stood  with  rifles  in  their  hands,  and  to  the  right 
and  left  one  could  catch  the  glint  of  barrels  here  and  there  in 
the  green  leaves  of  the  hops.  We  on  the  road  were  about  the 
same  number  as  the  picket  behind  the  obstacle.  It  was  an 
interesting  situation.  The  road  ran  quite  straight  between 
the  two  parties.  We  were  without  cover  on  it ;  the  other  side 
had  partial  cover  behind  the  thick  timber  fence.  All  the  would- 
be  combatants,  save  myself,  were  on  foot  ;  the  chestnut 
'  Doctor '  offered  a  good  target  in  the  bright  sunshine,  which 
was  in  our  faces,  I  wondered,  indeed,  why  the  enemy  did 
not  give  us  a  volley  at  three  hundred  j'^ards,  low  down  the 
straight  road  ;  they  must  have  hit  something.  '  Mansfield,' 
I  said  to  my  friend,  '  don't  stand  on  ceremony,  but  give  these 
fellows  a  voUey  at  once.'  The  Sniders  were  already  loaded, 
and  off  they  went  in  six  seconds.  There  was  a  lot  of  powder 
smoke  ui  those  days,  and  plenty  of  scattered  shooting  followed 


JOURNEY  INTO  THE  WEST  119 

this  opening,  and  we  all  ran  forward,  loading  and  fixing  bayonets 
as  we  went.  When  we  reached  the  wooden  obstacle  not  a  man 
was  behind  it,  and  we  raced  through  it,  firing  and  cheering. 
In  a  few  minutes  we  were  again  at  the  boundary  line  :  the 
battle  (!)  of  Trout  River  was  over.  We  had  no  one  killed  or 
wounded ;  the  enemy  lost  one  man,  it  was  said,  and  Colonel 
MacEachern's  braves  had  come  upon  an  old  Fenian  lying  in 
a  hole  in  the  forest.  Some  United  States  troops  appeared 
next  day  to  pohce  their  frontier,  and  send  the  scattered  bands 
of  raiders  back  to  their  several  cities.  I  had  some  long  rides 
with  the  scout  to  the  west  of  Trout  River,  where  other  bands 
of  raiders  had  been  reported,  but  they,  too,  had  vanished  ; 
and  then  we  marched  back  to  Montreal.  I  said  good-bj^e  to 
the  scout  with  real  regret  ;  he  was  a  splendid  fellow.  A  short 
time  afterwards  he  sent  me  a  letter  with  his  photograph,  which 
I  still  have.  He  signed  the  letter,  '  Yours  until  Death,  The 
Scout.'  In  the  photograph  he  is  depicted  in  baggy  civilian 
Canadian  clothes,  with  many  pockets  ;  he  has  a  large  bushy 
beard  and  a  big,  broad-brimmed,  brown  straw  hat.  In  his 
right  hand  he  holds  a  large  cavalry  sword,  m  his  left  a  pipe ; 
the  butt  of  a  revolver  is  visible  out  of  one  of  his  many  pockets. 
I  hope  I  may  meet  him  in  the  next  world.  What  splendid  men 
I  have  met  along  the  thin  track  of  my  path  in  life  !  I  should 
have  liked  to  listen  to  the  scout  telling  of  these  three  or  four 
days'  rough-riding  in  after  years.  Once  only  did  I  meet  any 
one  who  knew  of  Trout  River.  It  was  in  a  haircutter's  shop 
near  the  Haymarket.  After  the  manner  of  his  profession  the 
barber  was  extremely  communicative.  He  had  had  a  brother 
in  the  69th  Regiment,  but  he  had  suffered  so  much  in  Canada 
in  the  war  there  that  he  was  never  any  good  again.  '  ^Vhat 
war  was  it  ?  '  I  asked.  *  The  war  of  Trout  River,'  he  answered ; 
and  then  the  details  followed.  '  The  men  had  no  food,  they 
lay  for  days  and  days  in  the  forest,  until  they  had  to  eat  their 
blankets.'  I  laughed  so  much  that  he  suspended  his  operations 
to  stare  at  my  reflection  in  the  glass.  There  are  manj^  wslyf- 
of  writing  history. 

I  went  to  Quebec  with  my  regiment,  and  waited  for  the  reply 
to  the  letter  sent  to  Ottawa.  It  came  on  7th  June,  and  on 
the  8th  I  began  a  long  journey  into  the  West. 

There  was  one  old  friend  to  whom  I  had  to  wish  good-bye. 


120     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :  AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

however,  before  starting — Private  Henry  Connors  of  the  69th 
Regiment.  Before  leaving  Fermoy  ten  years  earUer,  Recruit 
Henry  Connors  had  been  confided  specially  to  my  care  by  an 
old  couple  who  had  come  from  Cork  to  see  their  son  ere  the 
draft  sailed  for  Burmah.  From  that  time  forward  Private 
Connors  had  been  my  servant.  No  more  faithful  heart  ever 
beat  in  body  of  man  or  master.  He  had  always  been  dehcate 
with  lung  trouble,  and  he  was  now  d3'^ing  in  the  regimental 
hospital  in  Quebec.  He  died  while  I  was  in  the  West,  and 
when  I  came  back  I  put  a  small  stone  over  his  nameless  grave 
in  the  military  graveyard  which  was  then  outside  the  walls 
on  the  historic  Plains  of  x^ibraham.  The  dust  of  many  other 
good  soldiers  must  have  been  there.  I  had  cut  on  the  stone 
his  name  and  regiment,  and  underneath  : — 

HIS  master's  friend 
HIS  friend's  servant 

It  wasn't  much,  but  it  was  true,  and  the  meaning  of  the  words 
had  memories  in  them  that  went  through  many  distant  lands. 
It  would  be  blasphemy  to  doubt  of  heaven  while  such  souls 
are  found  on  earth. 

I  have  told  the  story  of  the  next  ten  months  of  my  life  in 
another  book,^  and  I  shall  pass  over  that  interval  now,  though 
there  were  many  things  omitted  from  the  old  narrative  which 
might  be  of  interest  to  readers  of  to-day,  for  the  things  seen 
then,  or  their  kind,  are  no  more  to  be  looked  at  by  the  eye  of 
man.  We  know  that  the  old  dodo  wasn't  thought  much  of 
when  he  was  found  flopping  and  flapping  about,  four  himdred 
years  ago  ;  in  fact,  his  early  discoverers  called  him  the  '  Silly.' 
How  people  would  flock  to  see  him  if  he  were  on  view  in  the 
Zoological  Gardens  to-day  !  Every  egg  would  be  worth  a 
thousand  guineas.  But  I  have  a  long  road  in  front,  and  I 
must  get  along  it  before  the  Hght  fails. 

At  the  time  of  the  Red  River  Expedition  it  took  three 
months  to  get  from  Quebec  to  the  Rocky  Moimtains.  It  took 
me  more  than  two  months  to  return  by  dog-sled  over  the  snow 
from  the  Rocky  Mountain  House  of  the  Hudson  Bay  Com- 
pany  to   Winnipeg   alone.     You   can   do   the   distance   from 

^  Tht  Great  Lone  Land.     (E.  B.) 


THE  NORTH-WEST  AS  IT  WAS  121 

Quebec  to  the  mountains  now  in  three  days.  I  left  Quebec  in 
Jime,  and  reached  the  mountains  in  December,  but  there  were 
many  side  journeys  made  by  canoe  and  horse  and  stage-coach 
in  the  interval. 

On  the  return  journey  to  Canada  it  required  a  whole  fort- 
night to  get  from  Winnipeg  to  St.  Paul's,  Minnesota.  You 
can  do  it  now  in  fifteen  hours.  And  yet  that  is  the  least  part 
of  the  change  which  these  fort}'  years  have  wrought.  Winni- 
peg, now  a  huge  city,  was  then  a  village  of  thirty  houses  and 
perhaps  a  hundred  and  fifty  inhabitants.  A  dozen  cities  have 
sprung  into  existence  where  buffalo  roamed  and  Indians  warred 
in  that  day.  Railways  traverse  the  land  in  all  directions, 
and  the  output  of  grain  to  Europe  is  enormous.  I  open  the 
report  which  I  wrote  when  I  got  back  to  Fort  Garrj%  by  desire 
of  that  admirable  man,  Mr.  Adams  Archibald,  Manitoba's  first 
governor,  and  this  is  what  I  find  in  the  concluding  paragraph 
of  that  lengthy  document  : — 

'  These,  Sir,  are  the'  views  which  I  have  formed  upon  the  whole 
question  of  the  existing  state  of  affairs  in  the  Saskatchewan.  They 
result  from  the  thought  and  experience  of  many  long  days  of  travel 
through  a  large  portion  of  the  region  to  which  they  have  reference. 
If  I  were  asked  from  what  point  of  view  I  have  looked  upon  the 
question,  I  would  answer :  From  that  point  which  sees  a  vast 
country  lying,  as  it  were,  silently  awaiting  the  approach  of  the 
immense  wave  of  human  life  which  rolls  unceasingly  from  Europe 
to  America.  Far  off  as  lie  the  regions  of  the  Saskatchewan  from 
the  Atlantic  seaboard  on  which  that  wave  is  thrown,  remote  as 
are  the  fertile  glades  which  fringe  the  eastern  slopes  of  the  Rocky 
Mountains,  still  that  wave  of  human  life  is  destined  to  reach  these 
beautiful  solitudes  and  to  convert  the  wild  luxuriance  of  their  no\N' 
useless  vegetation  into  all  the  requirements  of  civiHsed  existence. 

'  And  if  it  be  matter  of  desire  that  across  this  immense  continent 
— resting  upon  the  two  greatest  oceans  of  the  world — a  powerful 
nation  should  arise,  with  the  strength  and  the  manhood  which  race, 
climate,  and  tradition  would  assign  to  it ;  a  nation  which  would 
look  with  no  evil  eye  upon  the  old  Mother-land  from  whence  it 
sprang  ;  a  nation  which,  having  no  bitter  memories  to  recall,  would 
have  no  idle  prejudices  to  perpetuate,  then  surely  it  is  worthy  of 
all  toil  of  hand  and  brain  on  the  part  of  those  who  to-day  rule, 
that  this  great  link  in  the  chain  of  such  a  future  nationality  should 
no  longer  remain  undeveloped,  a  prey  to  the  conflicts  of  savage 


122     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

races,   afe   once    the   garden   and    the   wilderness  of   the   Central 
Continent. 

•W.  F.  Butler, 
'  Lieutenant,  69th  Regt. 

'  Manitoba,  lOth  March  1871.' 

This  report  handed  in,  I  started  for  Canada  in  horse-sleds 
over  the  snow.  It  was  slow  work,  not  more  than  twenty 
miles  each  day.  I  had  as  feUow-travellers  a  gentleman  and  his 
secretary,  who  had  been  sent  from  the  Colonial  Office  in  London 
to  Winnipeg  to  report  upon  matters  there,  and  an  archdeacon, 
on  his  way  to  England  to  collect  funds  for  the  Church  Mission 
in  the  new  province  of  Manitoba.  We  slept  each  night  in  the 
cabin  of  some  Red  River  half-breed  settler,  laying  our  blankets 
on  the  floor  in  a  row,  the  archdeacon  usually  having  the  centre. 
One  night,  near  Pembina,  the  archdeacon  sprang  from  his 
couch  shouting,  '  They  are  putting  guns  through  the  window  ; 
they  are  going  to  fire  !  '  A  crash  of  breaking  glass  seemed  to 
confirm  his  alarm.  I  caught  at  the  supposed  gun  barrel.  It 
was  the  tail  of  a  cow.  The  animal  had  been  rubbing  the  hind 
part  of  her  person  against  the  small  window  frame,  and  her  tail 
had  broken  the  window  and  our  sleep  together. 

I  reached  Ottawa,  travelling  via  the  United  States,  in  about 
three  weeks.  My  report  had  been  received.  It  was  the  wish 
of  Governor  Archibald  that  I  should  return  to  the  North-West, 
officially  charged  to  take  in  hand  the  opening  up  of  that  vast 
region,  carrying  into  practical  effect  the  principles  of  Indian 
settlement,  the  establishment  of  a  police,  and  the  foundation 
of  Government  stations  which  I  had  advocated  in  mj'^  report. 

I  saw  the  Canadian  ministers,  Sir  John  MacDonald,  Sir 
George  Cartier,  Mr.  Joseph  Howe,  Sir  Francis  Hincks.  They 
were  highly  complimentary,  said  nice  things  about  the  three 
thousand  miles'  travel  in  the  wilderness,  most  of  it  through 
snow  and  ice,  and  with  the  thermometer  hovering  somewhere 
about  the  zero  of  Fahrenheit ;  hemmed  and  hawed  when  it 
came  to  Governor  Archibald's  recommendation  as  to  the 
commandantship  of  the  North- West,  and  laid  particular  stress 
upon  the  letter  they  were  writing  to  the  Colonial  and  the  War 
Offices  in  London  on  the  subject  of  my  services  to  Canada 
generally. 

At  that  time  I  took  the  world  very  much  without  question- 


BLANK  PROFESSIONAL  OUTLOOK  123 

Lag  its  men  or  motives.  Each  of  these  excellent  colonial 
ministers  had  wives,  sons,  and  daughters.  An  arm}"  ofl&cer 
who  married  a  minister's  daughter  might  perchance  have  been 
a  fit  and  proper  person  to  introduce  the  benefits  of  civilisation 
to  the  Blackfeet  Indians  on  the  Western  prairies,  but  if  he 
elected  to  remain  in  single  cussedness  in  Canada  he  was  pretty 
certain  to  find  himself  a  black  sheep  among  the  ministerial 
flock  of  aspirants  for  place,  no  matter  what  might  have  been 
the  value  of  his  individual  services. 

I  found  myself  almost  alone  in  Canada  :  the  army,  with  the 
exception  of  one  battalion,  had  been  withdrawn  ;  my  own  69th 
were  in  Bermuda.  The  military  leave,  which  had  been  granted 
to  me  for  the  purpose  of  going  out  to  the  Rocky  Mountains 
on  a  civil  expedition  when  the  Red  River  Expedition  was  over, 
had  not  yet  expired.     I  determined  to  go  to  England. 

Three  weeks  later  I  was  in  London.  I  received  a  similar 
charming  reception  at  the  Colonial  Office  from  the  minister 
of  the  day.  Another  letter  expressive  of  ofl&cial  approbation 
was  written,  this  time  to  the  Secretary  of  State  for  War,  in 
relation  to  my  services  in  North  America  ;  and  feeling  certain 
that  I  had  now  run  the  elusive  quarry,  Success,  to  his  last 
haunt,  I  presented  myself  once  again  at  the  door  of  the  institu- 
tion in  Pall  Mall,  which,  perhaps  more  than  any  other  of  its 
kind  in  the  capital  of  the  Empire,  might  fitly  inscribe  over  its 
portals  the  best  known  words  of  the  Inferno. 

The  moment  was  not  propitious.  The  union  under  the  same 
roof  of  the  office  of  the  Commander-in-Chief  with  that  of  the 
Secretary  of  State  had  just  been  effected.  The  dual  wheels  of 
administration  were  not  numing  smoothly,  and  my  unfortunate 
case  seemed  to  be  a  little  bit  of  grit  between  them.  I  must 
pay  the  memory  of  His  Royal  Highness  the  Commander-in- 
Chief  the  justice  of  saying  that  he  did  his  best  with  Mr.  Cardwell 
to  obtain  for  me  an  unattached  company.  I  had  now  twelve 
years'  service.  I  had  been  five  or  six  times  purchased  over 
by  officers,  most  of  whom  were  many  years  junior  to  me.  I 
was  told  by  all  those  heads  of  departments,  mihtary  and  civil, 
that  I  had  done  the  State  some  service.  The  reward  asked  for, 
a  half-pay  company,  did  not  seem  to  be  a  very  large  act  of 
recognition  ;  nevertheless,  the  reply  came  curt  and  chilling, 
'  Mr.  Cardwell  could  not  sanction  the  promotion  of  Lieutenant 


124     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Butler  to  an  unattached  company,  an  appointment  which,  if 
now  given,  would  confer  purchase  rights/  Truly,  reason  is 
sometimes  a  two-edged  weapon.  I  who,  had  there  been  no 
purchase  system,  must  have  been  a  captain  two  years  ago, 
must  now,  because  they  were  abolishing  the  system,  suffer 
a  further  loss  of  two  years  before  the  coveted  and  acknow- 
ledged step  in  rank  could  be  given  to  me.  I  had,  in  fact,  fallen 
between  two  stools.  The  book  of  the  Red  River  reward  was 
closed  six  months  earUer  ;  the  other  book  could  not  be  opened 
untU  purcliase  was  abolished  ! 

Suddenly  one  morning  the  Times  announced  that  Paris  was 
in  flames. 

The  news  of  war  between  France  and  Germany  first  reached 
us  on  the  Winnipeg  River  in  the  preceding  August,  and  at 
intervals  the  remote  theatre  of  our  little  expedition  had  caught 
the  echoes  of  these  colossal  combats  in  North-Eastern  France 
and  the  investment  of  Paris.  Then  as  I  got  farther  away 
from  all  sources  of  information,  and  the  winter  deepened 
over  the  wilderness,  complete  silence  had  ensued  ;  but  on  20th 
February,  when  I  returned  to  Fort  Garry,  I  find  one  entry, 
'  Heard  Capitulation  of  Paris.'  From  that  day  interest  seemed 
gone.     Now  it  woke  again. 

The  gentleman  who  had  been  my  recent  companion  from 
Fort  Garry  to  Ottawa  was  at  the  Foreign  OflBce.  I  went  at 
once  there  and  told  him  what  I  wanted — a,  passport  for  Paris 
as  soon  as  possible.  '  You  know  Voltaire's  saying,'  he  an- 
swered, '  "  Tigers  and  Monkeys  "  ?  You  wiU  fuid  the  "  tiger  " 
fit  on  now.  I  would  not  go  if  I  were  you.'  I  pressed  my 
request,  got  the  passport,  and  that  evening  took  the  mail-train 
from  Charing  Cross  to  Dover. 

Dayhght  comes  early  in  the  end  of  May.  The  opening  of 
the  carriage  door  at  Abbeville  roused  me  from  sleep  ;  a  soldier 
with  a  pickelhmibe  on  his  head  was  in  the  carriage  ;  a  Prussian 
guard  was  on  the  station  platform  ;  passports  were  scrutinised, 
and  passengers  compared  with  them,  and  then  we  went  on 
again.  It  was  j^et  quite  early  when  we  reached  St.  Denis, 
the  extreme  point  to  which  the  train  ran.  More  Prussian 
guards  and  soldiers  everywhere.  No  use  in  asking  ;  there 
we  must  remain.  The  ifitat-Major  would  not  be  open  until 
eight  o'clock.     Another  man  who  had  come  from  London  for- 


PARIS  SEEN  IN  FLAMES  125 

gathered  with  me  at  the  station,  and  we  sought  breakfast 
together.  Then  came  the  ]Stat-Major.  My  companion  spoke 
French  with  facility  ;  he  was  of  the  Law,  and  the  ways  of  the 
Army  were  utterly  unknown  to  him.  Between  us  we  made 
an  excellent  unit  for  dealing  with  a  state  of  siege. 

We  were  ushered  in  before  a  big  bearded  man,  a  Bavarian 
staff  officer  of  high  rank.  My  companion  spoke  ;  I  prompted. 
The  commandant  was  very  civil  and  very  firm.  Into  Paris 
we  could  not  go,  but  we  were  free  to  ascend  to  the  top  of 
the  abbej'^  tower  of  St.  Denis,  and  see  Paris  from  that  lofty 
standpoint.  We  got  passes  for  the  abbey,  and  went  to  it. 
From  the  place  in  front  we  could  hear  the  boom  of  heavy  guns 
in  the  direction  of  Paris,  but  the  church  hid  the  view  to  the 
south.  We  were  soon  at  the  top  of  the  tower.  One  scarcely 
noticed  eight  or  ten  officers  who  were  already  on  the  leads, 
so  wonderful  was  the  panorama  that  burst  upon  us.  All  Paris 
lay  there,  from  Mont  Valerien  on  the  west  to  Vincennes  on  the 
east,  and  all  Paris  apparently  burning.  A  great  pall  of  black 
smoke  hung  high  over  the  centre  of  the  city,  fed  and  supported 
by  eight  tall  pillars  of  flame  and  smoke,  which  rose  straight 
through  the  calm  sunlit  atmosphere  of  a  May  morning.  From 
the  rounded  summit  of  Montmartre  on  our  right  front  a  battery 
of  heavy  guns  was  firing  steadily  across  the  middle  distance 
in  the  direction  of  the  Buttes  de  Chaumont,  Belleville,  and 
Pere  la  Chaise  on  our  left  as  we  looked  due  south.  From 
another  point  on  that  left  front,  apparently  the  Pare  des 
Buttes  de  Chaumont,  a  battery  of  the  Communist  army  was 
replying  to  the  guns  on  Montmartre.  The  shells  were  making 
great  arcs,  the  trail  of  their  flight  made  visible  by  the  smoke 
of  the  fuses. 

Under  the  curves  of  this  cannonade  the  domes  and  towers 
of  the  northern  half  of  Paris  were  visible,  and  some  even  to 
the  south  of  the  river.  The  fires  seemed  to  be  in  the  centre 
of  the  city,  in  the  region  of  St.  Eustache,  the  Tuileries  and 
Louvre,  and  the  Hotel  de  Ville. 

From  the  Prussian  officers  on  the  tower  we  could  get  but  little 
information.  The  Versaillais  troops  had  entered  Paris  on  its 
western  side  three  or  four  days  earlier  ;  there  had  been  heavy 
firing  all  that  time,  and  the  progress  from  west  to  east  had  been 
slow  but  steady.    They  were  now  at  Montmartre  on  one  side, 


126     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

and  beyond  the  Pantheon  on  the  other.  The  *  Reds  '  had 
retired  to  the  north-east  extremities  of  the  city,  and  they 
appeared  to  be  making  a  last  stand  from  La  Villette  to  Pere  la 
Chaise.  Fires  had  been  raging  for  three  days  and  nights  ; 
many  great  monuments  had  been  destroyed. 

What  a  strange  sight  this  was  !  Assuredly  St.  Denis  in  all 
its  history  from  the  days  of  Dagobert  had  never  seen  its  equal. 
German  officers  watching  the  bombardment  of  Paris  by  France, 
smoking,  spitting,  and  laughing  as  they  watched  ! 

One  had  now  time  to  look  to  other  points  of  the  great  circle 
that  lay  around  this  lofty  tower.  There  underneath  to  the  north 
was  the  battered  fort  of  La  Briche,  which  had  suffered  so  much 
from  the  Prussian  batteries  beyond  ;  two  or  three  miles  to 
the  east  was  the  village  of  Le  Bourget,  the  scene  of  terrible 
fighting  a  couple  of  months  earlier.  The  old  abbey  where 
we  stood  had  many  scars  and  wounds  to  show.  Shells  fired 
high  over  La  Briche  from  two  Prussian  siege  batteries  had  met 
here  before  they  went  to  earth  ;  the  roof  was  pierced  in  several 
places  ;  the  tower  on  which  we  stood  had  been  hit ;  and  a 
shell  had  taken  the  head  from  the  big  stone  statue  of  St.  Denis 
on  the  centre  of  the  high  roof. 

We  descended  the  long  flights  of  steps  to  the  great  square 
beneath  the  pavement  of  which  lie  in  a  common  grave  all  the 
dust  of  old  royal  France.  Were  the  Germans  on  the  tower 
above,  and  the  scene  upon  which  they  stolidly  looked,  the 
punishments  for  that  outrage  of  seventy-eight  years  earlier  ?  It 
seemed  to  us  that  we  had  been  looking  at  the  death  of  France. 

There  was  nothing  more  to  be  done  in  St.  Denis.  Could  we 
get  by  any  means  to  Versailles  ?  Yes,  an  omnibus  ran  there 
daily,  but  one  must  have  a  pass  to  go  by  it.  We  went  again 
to  the  fitat-Major,  got  the  pass  after  another  inspection  of 
passports,  mounted  the  roof  of  the  omnibus,  and  waited  for 
the  start.  It  was  not  yet  midday.  All  that  long  afternoon 
we  trundled  along  a  roundabout  way  to  Versailles,  keeping 
between  two  great  loops  of  the  Seine,  and  finally  crossing  that 
river  on  a  ferry-boat  near  Bougival.  At  this  place  we  passed 
from  the  German  to  the  French  lines.  All  the  bridges  had  been 
broken  ;  the  fields  looked  dishevelled  and  the  houses  tattered, 
for  the  big  guns  on  Valerien  had  often  reached  them  during  the 
winter  just  over. 


ATTEMPT  TO  ENTER  PARIS  127 

It  was  interesting  to  note,  along  the  twelve  or  fifteen  miles 
of  our  journey,  the  facility  which  this  river  of  many  windings 
had  given  the  Germans  for  investing  Paris  on  her  western  side. 
Break  the  bridges,  watch  well,  and  sit  tight  on  the  farther 
bank  of  the  river — ^nothing  more  was  necessary  there,  from  St. 
Denis  on  the  north  to  Bougival  on  the  south. 

We  reached  Versailles  at  dusk.  My  companion  knew  a 
compatriot,  the  correspondent  of  a  leading  London  journal. 
We  made  out  his  inn  and  found  him  playing  at  billiards.  '  You 
have  not  the  smallest  chance,'  he  said,  '  of  getting  into  Paris  : 
awful  work  is  going  on  there.  The  strictest  watch  is  kept  to 
prevent  strangers  entering  at  the  Point  du  Jour,  the  only  gate 
now  open  ;  a  special  pass  signed  by  the  general  is  necessary. 
Half  Paris  is  burning,  and  news  has  just  come  that  the  Arch- 
bishop and  some  forty  priests  have  been  shot  by  the  Com- 
munists.' He  directed  us  to  where  we  could  find  sofas  for 
the  night,  and  with  that  we  had  to  be  satisfied.  Nevertheless, 
I  determined  to  have  a  try  for  Paris  next  morning. 

The  Versailles  omnibus  was  like  an  ant  whose  road  is  cut  ; 
the  ant  runs  as  far  as  the  cut  and  back  again.     The  bus  was 
doing  this  at  Versailles,  running  to  the  Point  du  Jour,  and 
then  coming  back  again.     I  got  on  the  top  of  this  conveyance 
next  morning.     My  quondam  companion  did  not  come.     We 
reached  the  Versailles  end  of  the  Point  du  Jour  in  the  forenoon  ; 
the  bus  stopped  ;    I  took  up  my  knapsack  and  began  to  cross 
the   bridge.     There   was   a   guard    at  the   farther   end.     The 
sentinels  stopped  me.     An  officer  appeared  ;    I  presented  my 
passport.     He  read  it,  turned  it  upside  down,  shook  his  head, 
and  went  back  to  his  room.     I  put  my  knapsack  down,  and 
sat  upon  it  with  my  back  to  the  battlement.     I  thought  that 
by  this  show  of  resigned  acceptation  to  military  authority  I 
might  thaw  the  military  mind,  but  it  had  no  effect.     Presently 
a  portly  person  came  from  the  other,  or  Paris,  side  of  the 
bridge.      His  passes  were  examined  ;    the  omnibus  was  pre- 
paring to  start  back  for  Versailles,  and  he  was  going  there. 
I  took  up  my  bag  and  ascended  the  vehicle  with  reluctance. 
Presently  I  addressed  the  portly  man  in  the  worst  French. 
He  replied  in  the  best  English.     We  forgathered.     We  found 
a  link  in  a  mutual  knowledge  of  a  distinguished  Frenchman 
of  that  time  who  had  resided  m  Ireland  for  many  years — 


128     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Monsieur  le  Comte  de  Jarnac.  M.  D'Arcy  (for  that  was  my 
companion's  name)  was  an  Orleanist  whose  normal  residence 
was  in  London.  He  possessed  many  sources  of  information, 
and  seemed  to  be  able  to  go  where  he  pleased.  He  had  now 
been  in  Paris  for  some  days,  and  he  was  going  to  Versailles 
for  one  night.  One  confidence  led  to  another.  He  thought 
he  would  be  able  to  obtain  a  pass  for  me  to  enter  Paris  the 
followmg  day  ;  meanwhile  there  was  no  place  in  Versailles 
where  he  could  get  a  lodging  for  the  night.  I  thought  my 
landlady  of  the  previous  evening  could  manage  this  for  him. 
We  dined  together  in  a  cafe  at  Versailles,  and  then  we  walked 
out  to  see  the  great  avenue  leading  to  Paris.  The  evening  was 
as  glorious  as  May  in  its  last  week  could  make  it.  The  three 
great  avenues  which  lead  from  the  open  space  in  front  of  the 
palace  were  thronged  with  people.  All  kinds  of  rumours  were 
afloat.  The  '  Reds  '  still  held  Villette  and  the  Buttes  de 
Chaumont,  but  the  cordon  of  the  Versailles  army  was  being 
dra^vn  closer  around  them  ;  great  numbers  of  Communist 
prisoners  and  many  cannon  and  mitrailleuses  had  been  taken  ; 
the  loss  of  life  was  enormous  ;  the  destruction  of  property 
was  stiU  greater. 

Presentlj''  we  could  see  movement  and  commotion  going  on 
far  down  the  broad  avenue  towards  Paris.  Troops  were 
advancing  up  the  roadway  between  the  elm-trees  ;  a  wave  of 
shouting  and  gesticulation  accompanied  them.  The  head  of 
the  column  was  soon  abreast  of  where  we  stood — cavalry 
horses  and  men  lean  and  hungry-] ooking  ;  faces  grimed  and 
greasy ;  luiiforms  dust-covered  and  worn.  Behind  these 
came  a  great  straggling  band  of  Communist  prisoners,  men, 
women,  and  children,  ragged,  fierce,  powder-marked,  streaming 
with  perspiration  ;  such  people  as  I  had  never  seen  before, 
and  have  never  seen  since  ;  faces  at  the  last  gasp  of  exhaustion  ; 
faces  that  looked  scornfully  at  the  howling  mob  of  bourgeois, 
that  shouting,  racing  crowd  which  ran  under  the  elms  on  either 
side  and  ran  out  of  the  cafes,  throwing  vile  epithets  over  the 
heads  of  the  soldiers.  At  the  end  of  this  dismal  column  came 
the  carts  with  the  wounded.  In  one  of  these  there  sat,  bolt 
upright,  a  woman  in  the  prime  of  life  ;  her  black  hair  hung 
loose  upon  her  shoulders,  her  olive  face  had  a  gash  across  one 
cheek  from  which  the  blood  was  still  flowing,  her  hands  were 


AT  VERSAILLES  129 

tied  behind  her  back  ;  two  or  three  wounded  men  lay  at  her 
feet  helplessly  stricken,  but  had  there  been  a  thousand  dead 
or  dying  around  her  it  would  not  have  mattered.  It  was  her 
face  that  held  the  eye.  I  have  never  forgotten  the  face  and 
figure  of  that  proud,  defiant,  handsome  woman.  The  cart 
passed  with  the  rest,  but  I  followed  it  with  my  eyes  while  it 
was  in  sight,  and  ere  it  passed  into  distance  I  saw  the  figure 
against  the  background  of  the  great  chateau  as  the  terrible 
cortege  filed  away  into  the  open  space  before  the  palace. 
There  it  all  was,  grouped,  set,  framed,  and  told  as  never  pen 
could  write  it,  nor  picture  paint  it.  Two  hundred  years  of 
French  history  were  there  :  the  great  King,  the  shameless 
Court,  the  wreck  of  France.  And  so,  until  after  sunset,  the 
stream  flowed  on  :  the  dirtj^  ill-horsed  dragoons,  the  cowardly 
crowd  along  the  side-walks,  the  struggling,  shambling  masses 
marching  in  the  roadway.  Every  phase  of  human  age  and 
misery  was  there  :  white-haired  men  of  seventy,  desperado 
boys  of  sixteen,  old  battered  women,  young  girls  clinging  on 
the  arms  of  wild-looking  j'ouths — ^all  tired,  hungry,  blood- 
stained— this  time  the  defeated  ones  in  the  everlasting  strife 
between  rich  and  poor,  marching  into  the  twilight.  In  a  pocket- 
book  of  that  time  I  find  these  scenes  outlined  in  a  few  short 
sentences  which  end  with  the  words  :  '  What  hope  ?  What 
hope  ?  '  Then  overleaf  I  read  this  :  '  Everywhere  around 
this  scene  was  the  beauty  of  the  summer,  the  scent  of  leaf  and 
flower  ;  the  horse  chestnuts  and  elms  were  rippling  with  the 
music  of  May,  the  air  was  filled  with  the  song  and  chirp  of 
birds.' 

That  was  the  eternal  answer  to  my  question.     If  I  did  not 
hear  it  then,  I  know  it  now. 


CHAPTER  IX 

Paris  in  her  agony.  Writing  The  Cheat  Lone  Land.  On  half-pay.  Bound 
for  the  Saskatchewan.  The  lonely  journey.  Home.  Ashanti.  With  Sir 
Garnet  Wolseley  again. 

My  new-found  friend,  M.  D'Arcy,  was  as  good  as  his  word. 
Next  day  I  attended  with  him  at  the  ^fitat-Major  in  the  palace 
and  passed  the  scrutmy.  We  set  out  again  on  the  onmibus  for 
the  Point  du  Jour.  One  incident  occurred  on  the  road,  besides 
the  passage  of  captured  guns  and  prisoners,  now  familiar  to 
me  since  the  preceding  evening.  It  was  the  coming  of  a  strong 
body  of  cavalry,  escorting  a  carriage  in  which  sat  a  short  man 
with  round,  owl-eyed  spectacles  and  a  general  officer  in  undress 
uniform.  We  drew  up  to  let  this  cavalcade  go  by,  and  I  had 
a  good  look  at  the  two  men  in  the  carriage.  They  were  Mon- 
sieur Thiers  and  Marshal  MacMahon — the  chief  of  the  newly 
formed  Republic  and  the  commander-in-chief  of  the  French 
armj^  The  fighting  phase  of  the  war  of  France  against  the 
Commune  was  clearly  over. 

When  we  passed  the  barrier  at  the  enceinte  of  Paris,  a  long 
road  lay  before  us  to  our  destination  in  the  Rue  Vivienne.  I 
carried  my  knapsack.  My  companion  was  already  domiciled 
in  the  Hotel  des  ^fitrangers,  for  which  we  were  bound.  There 
were  no  horses  or  carriages  and  very  few  pedestrians  to  be 
seen  ;  patrols,  mounted  and  on  foot,  were  about.  We  struck 
the  Seine  somewhere  near  Auteuil,  and  followed  the  right  bank 
of  the  stream  for  a  long  distance.  Looking  up  the  river 
towards  the  north  of  Paris  one  still  saw  a  bank  of  smoke,  but 
it  was  nothing  Hke  what  it  had  been  two  days  before  from  St. 
Denis.  It  was  dusk  when  we  reached  the  Place  de  la  Concorde  ; 
a  long  May  twUight  had  light  still  left  to  show  at  least  some  of 
the  devastation  that  had  here  been  wrought  by  fire  and  shell. 
The  great  offices  of  State  that  flanked  the  Place  on  its  north 
side  were  all  in  ruins,  roofless,  and  black  with  smoke  ;   masses 

130 


ASPECT  OF  PARIS  IN  MAY  '71  131 

of  charred  and  burnt  papers  covered  the  paved  floor  of  the 
Place,  and  were  blowing  in  the  breeze  ;  a  strong  smell  of  burnt 
stuff  filled  the  air  ;  the  palace  of  the  Corps  L6gislatif  and  the 
buildings  on  the  Quai  d'Orsay  were  black  and  roofless.  Looking 
to  the  left  up  the  Rue  Castighone  one  saw  no  column  above 
the  Place  Vendome.  But  the  strangest  sight  was  the  Tuileries. 
Nothing  remained  of  that  great  historic  pile  but  the  bare,  gaunt 
walls,  through  the  glassless  windows  of  which  the  glow  of 
floors  and  rafters  still  burning  below  cast  a  deep  red  glare ; 
the  effect  in  the  twihght  was  like  that  of  lighted  candles 
set  within  a  colossal  skull.  I  do  not  remember  having  seen  a 
single  human  being  in  that  huge  scene  of  destruction  around 
the  Place  de  la  Concorde. 

At  every  entrance  along  the  Rue  de  Rivoli  great  barricades 
of  stone  and  timber  were  standing.  The  silence  of  death  was 
here.  Not  a  single  lamp  was  lighted.  Twilight  seemed  to  be 
closing  over  an  enormous  graveyard  in  which  even  the  tombs 
were  ruined.  Just  seventeen  months  earUer  I  had  looked  at 
this  scene  ghttering  in  myriad  jets  of  gas.  A  turn  of  the  thumb 
and  forefinger  can  put  out  a  good  deal  of  gas. 

We  turned  into  the  gardens  of  the  Palais  Royal,  and  here 
at  last  there  was  life.  It  was  now  quite  dark,  but  two  bat- 
taHons  of  regular  soldiers  were  encamped  in  the  gardens,  and 
their  supper  fires  were  stOl  smouldering. 

There  was  one  old  woman  in  the  Hotel  des  iStrangers,  who 
let  us  in  after  some  debate,  and  got  us  some  cold  salt  beef  for 
supper. 

I  could  not  enter  into  the  details  of  the  next  week,  although 
it  was  a  very  wonderful  week.  The  days  were  gloriously  fine  ; 
I  was  quick  of  foot  and  could  go  for  manj^  hours  together 
without  tiring.  I  explored  the  great  city  in  every  direction,  and 
I  saw  many  scenes  that  are  not  likely  to  be  seen  again  in  our 
time.  Morning  after  morning  I  started  out  early,  ate  and 
drank  somewhere,  and  got  back  at  nightfall  to  the  Rue 
Vivienne.  Troops  were  pourmg  into  Paris,  and  the  hunt  for 
Communists  was  in  full  swing  ;  the  barricades  were  disappear- 
ing ;  horses  began  to  show  in  the  thoroughfares  again.  One 
could  follow  the  routes  of  the  Versailles  troops  along  both  sides 
of  the  river  up  to  Belleville,  and  tell  by  the  shell  marks 
and  bullet  holes  the  places  where  the  fiercest  resistance  had 


132     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

been  made.  A  great  stand  had  taken  place  in  front  of  the 
Hotel  de  Ville  and  along  the  Une  of  the  Boulevard  Sebastopol. 
Great  numbers  of  dead  had  been  hastily  buried  in  the  square 
near  the  tower  of  St.  Jacques,  and  the  warm  May  sun  was  making 
the  air  smell  badly.  Another  stand  had  been  made  at  the 
Place  de  la  Bastille.  Ammunition  seemed  literally  to  have  been 
poured  along  the  streets  in  the  vicinity  of  this  spot  :  a  tin  hat 
suspended  over  the  door  of  a  hatter's  shop  had  six  bullets  in  it. 
At  the  corner  of  the  Rue  Castex  and  the  Rue  St.  Antoine  every 
wall,  door,  and  window  was  pitted.  The  column  of  July  had 
a  dozen  cannon-shots  through  its  base. 

The  Hotel  de  Ville  was  a  scene  of  the  greatest  destruction 
I  had  ever  beheld  ;  everything  in  it  or  near  it  was  smashed 
to  atoms — the  great  clock,  the  wonderful  staircase,  the  statues, 
the  bronze  railings,  the  equestrian  figures  of  Liberte,  Egalite, 
and  Fraternite — all  was  broken,  charred,  and  brayed  into 
bits. 

I  went  on  to  Pere  Lachaise.  Here  the  last  stand  had  been 
made  among  the  tombs,  and  it  was  here  that  the  heavy  shell 
fire  I  had  watched  from  the  tower  of  St.  Denis  had  wrought 
the  greatest  havoc.  Of  the  great  and  noble  soldiers  whose 
graves  or  monuments  are  in  Pere  Lachaise — Ney,  MacDonald, 
Suchet,  Massena,  Kellermann,  Foy,  Lavalette,  and  Labedoyere 
— nothing  was  stirred  or  injured  ;  but  some  at  least  of  the 
stock-jobber  and  capitalist  fraternity — that  dynasty  which 
seems  to  have  succeeded  to  the  thrones  vacated  by  the  old 
despots — had  not  been  so  fortunate.  The  gorgeously  vulgar 
mausoleum  of  Casimir  Perrier  had  been  shot  into  with  bullets, 
and  the  tomb  of  the  Due  de  Momy  had  apparently  served  as  an 
eating- table  for  the  '  Red  '  soldiers,  for  there  were  broken 
loaves  of  bread  and  ends  of  wine  bottles  on  it. 

In  the  Place  de  la  Concorde  the  Egyptian  obelisk  had  escaped 
a  rain  of  shells  fired  from  a  Versailles  battery  at  the  Arc  de 
Triomphe,  but  the  statue  of  Lille  was  shattered  to  pieces,  its 
head  and  bust  lying  on  the  ground.  The  winged  horses  at  the 
main  entrance  to  the  Tuileries  Gardens  were  wingless,  the' 
marble  balustrades  were  knocked  about,  and  the  trees  and 
asphalt  paths  and  floorings  rent  and  torn  with  shells. 

To  me  the  pity  of  it  all  centred  in  the  column  of  Austerlitz, 
and  its  statue  lying  prone  in  the  dust  and  litter  of  the  Place 


THE  PRISON  OF  LA  ROQUETTE  133 

Vendome.  The  Prussian  shot  from  the  siege  batteries  of 
Chatillon  and  Meudon  had  spared  the  dome  of  the  Invahdes, 
but  Frenchmen  had  been  found  base  enough  to  pull  down  in 
cold  blood  the  bronze  pillar  made  from  the  cannon  of  Austerlitz, 
with  the  statue  of  the  Great  Conqueror  on  its  summit.  That 
sight  hardened  my  heart  to  the  scenes  I  was  now  to  witness. 
These  were  the  hunting  out  of  those  wretched  people,  all 
through  the  north  and  north-east  of  Paris.  By  this  time  the 
prisoners  taken  by  the  Prussians  in  the  war  had  all  returned 
to  France,  and  it  was  easy  for  the  new  Government  to  obtain 
soldiers  ;  but  they  were  soldiers  upon  whose  faces  it  was  not 
difficult  to  read  the  story  of  the  defeat  and  demoralisation  of 
that  war.  They  had  been  prisoners,  they  had  been  marched 
away  from  disastrous  fields  of  defeat  and  surrender,  huddled 
together  in  tens  of  thousands,  just  as  they  were  now  huddling 
their  own  brothers  and  cousins  into  the  camps  at  Satory  and 
Versailles. 

One  saw  soldiers  everywhere  —  idle,  undisciplined,  dirty. 
Few  among  them  seemed  to  care  for  themselves,  or  for  any  one 
else.  There  was  no  pride  about  them,  no  apparent  sense  or 
knowledge  of  the  things  they  were  looking  at  on  every  side. 
The  moral  rivets  of  their  individual  bodies  and  souls  seemed 
to  be  as  loose  as  were  the  social  and  pohtical  screws  of  the 
body  politic  in  the  collective  fabric  of  the  State.  The  marines 
and  sailors  were  of  quite  a  dififerent  type  :  one  saw  in  them 
a  look  and  demeanour  alert  and  serious  :  they  seemed  to  know 
what  had  happened. 

Paris  was  now  locked  up  more  securely  than  ever.  People 
returning  to  their  homes  from  the  country  were  allowed  to 
enter  ;  people  wanting  to  leave  Paris  for  the  country  could 
not  go  out.  The  prisons  were  all  full,  and  over  and  over  again 
one  saw  repeated  in  smaller  groups  the  scenes  I  had  witnessed 
at  Versailles  on  that  second  evening  there. 

I  went  one  day  to  the  prison  of  La  Roquette.  It  was  there 
that  the  Archbishop  of  Paris  and  some  forty  priests  had  been 
shot  in  cold  blood  by  the  Communists.  M.  D'Arcy  was  with 
me  on  this  occasion,  and  we  were  passed  in  at  once.  We  were 
shown  into  a  small  courtyard  of  the  prison  by  a  young  naval 
lieutenant,  who  coolly  explained  to  us  the  processes  of  the  trial 
and  execution  of  Communists.    '  We  strip  their  right  shoulders,' 


134     SIR  WILLIMI  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

he  said.  *  If  the  skin  of  the  neck  and  shoulder  shows  the  dark 
mark  produced  by  the  kick  of  the  chassepot  rifle  the  court  pro- 
nounces the  single  word  "  classe "  ;  if  there  is  no  mark  of 
discoloration  on  the  shoulder  tlie  president  says  "  passe,'"  and 
the  man  is  released.  Those  to  whom  "  classe  "  is  said  are  shot. 
One  hundred  and  fifty  were  shot  at  daybreak  this  morning  in 
this  courtyard.'  There  was  ghastly  proof  around  that  the  man 
spoke  truly.  The  courtyard  wae  paved  with  round  stones, 
and  one  had  to  step  from  stone  to  stone  to  avoid  the  blood 
that  fiUed  the  interstices  between  them.  A  horrible  smell, 
as  of  a  shambles,  filled  the  yard.  Along  the  waU  where  the 
condemned  men  had  stood  the  high-growing  dock  and  marsh- 
mallow  weeds  had  their  heads  aU  cut  off,  and  the  waU  was 
pitted  with  innumerable  holes  by  buUets.  It  was  a  battalion 
of  Breton  sailors  who  were  emploj^ed  on  this  duty. 

In  a  room  of  the  prison  the  officer  showed  us  the  hand  and 
ring  of  the  murdered  archbishop.  Probably  these  ghastly 
reUcs  were  kept  there  in  order  to  nerve  the  Breton  sailors  to 
their  terrible  work. 

In  another  courtyard  stood  a  great  pile  of  rifles,  knapsacks, 
and  accoutrements,  all  made  for  fighting  the  Prussians.  This 
was  the  end. 

I  had  seen  enough  of  Paris  in  her  agony,  and  would  have 
been  glad  to  shut  my  eyes  upon  her  sufferings  ;  but  to  leave 
the  city  was  now  much  more  difficult  than  to  enter  it  had  been 
a  week  ago.  The  thought  that  had  been  growing  in  my  mind 
above  every  other  thought  in  those  days  and  amid  those  scenes 
was  the  hopelessness  of  all  this  social  world  of  our  so-called 
civilisation.  Was  this  all  that  we  had  been  able  to  do  for  the 
people,  for  the  men  who  had  nothing,  for  those  poor  whom  we 
were  always  to  have  with  us  ?  Nations  fought  themselves  into 
victory  on  one  side  and  the  other,  dynasties  rose  and  dis- 
appeared, rehgions  ebbed  and  flowed  ;  but  in  this  war  there  was 
no  cessation,  no  equilibrium,  no  end.  The  have's  and  the  have- 
not's  were  always  face  to  face,  ready  to  shoot  down  or  to  rush 
in.  Often  before  my  mind  at  this  time  came  that  scene 
in  the  Elysee  on  the  morning  of  the  22nd  June  1815,  four 
days  after  Waterloo,  when  Napoleon,  hearing  the  shouts  of  the 
populace  of  the  faubourgs  calling  upon  him  to  dissolve  the 
Chamber  of  Deputies  and  proclaim  himself  Dictator,  exclaimed 


FROM  PARIS  TO  IRELAND  135 

bitterly,  '  Poor  people  !  they  alone  stand  by  me  in  the  hour 
of  my  reverses,  yet  I  have  not  loaded  them  with  riches  or 
honours,  I  leave  them  poor,  as  I  found  them/  How  many 
since  that  day  have  had  their  chance  of  doing  something  for 
these  submerged  millions,  and  have  done  nothing  !  And  yet 
now,  when  I  look  back  upon  it  aU,  over  the  almost  forty 
years  gone  since  I  saw  the  faU  of  the  Commune,  it  seems  that 
only  on  one  road,  humanly  speaking,  lies  the  hope  of  redemp- 
tion for  them.  It  is  outlined  in  another  utterance  of  the 
Great  Conqueror,  recorded  as  spoken  on  that  same  day  of  his 
abdication, 

*  You  come  from  the  village  of  Gonesse  ?  '  said  Napoleon 
to  the  boy  page  who  had  brought  him  a  cup  of  coffee,  '  No, 
sire,  from  Pierrefitte,'  '  Where  your  parents  have  a  cottage 
and  some  acres  of  land  ?  '  '  Yes,  sire.'  '  That  is  the  only 
true  happiness,'  Yes,  and  it  is  the  only  true  wealth,  of  men 
and  of  nations.  Man  under  modern  dispensations  has  been 
graciously  permitted  by  his  masters  to  go  back  to  the  land 
only  after  he  is  dead  :  I  think  if  they  would  permit  him  to  do 
so  during  his  Ufe,  and  allow  him  that  '  cottage  and  some  acres 
of  land,'  things  would  not  be  so  bad  in  our  world.  Did  not  a 
son  of  Cain  build  the  first  city  ? 

I  got  permission  to  leave  Paris,  Trains  ran  from  the  Gare 
du  Nord  again.  In  the  carriage  with  me  were  two  English 
surgeons  who  had  been  doing  ambulance  work  in  those  final  days 
of  the  Commune,  One,  afterwards  a  weU-known  man,  related 
some  incidents  which  had  come  under  his  notice  in  these  last 
fights.  An  old  woman  was  found  crouching  under  an  upturned 
cart  behind  a  barricade  ;  the  troops  advanced  thinking  the 
barricade  had  been  abandoned  by  everybody  ;  the  old  woman 
shot  with  a  revolver  the  first  soldier  who  approached  her,  '  I 
have  had  three  sons  kiUed  in  this  fighting,'  she  said,  '  and  I 
swore  that  I  would  kiU  one  enemy.  You  may  shoot  me  now.' 
They  did  so, 

I  went  to  Ireland,  and  began  at  once  to  write  a  book  on  those 
great  lone  spaces  of  the  earth  which  I  had  quitted  only  a  few 
weeks  earher.  It  seemed  so  strange  that  there  should  be 
these  vast,  vacant  lands,  while  here  the  city-pent  millions  were 
murdering  each  other  with  such  ferocity,  and  I  longed,  too,  to 
get  back  to  the  wilds  again.     In  the  army  there  seemed  to  be 


136    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

no  chance  for  me.  When  my  leave  of  absence  expired,  I  was 
ordered  to  join  the  depot  of  my  regiment,  then  at  Chatham. 
I  went  there  in  the  end  of  1871.  The  men  in  authority  were 
exceedingly  kind,  work  was  hght,  and  I  was  able  to  devote 
several  hours  every  day  to  my  manuscript.  It  grew  rapidly. 
In  that  Uttle  dingy  red-brick  subaltern's  quarter  on  the  old 
terrace  in  the  '  Phonghee  '  barracks  at  Chatham  I  Uved  again 
in  the  wilds.  What  an  infinite  blessing  is  the  mystery  of 
memory  !  No  possession  or  instinct  belonging  to  man  can 
touch  that  single  gift — to  look  back,  to  remember,  to  be  young 
when  you  are  old,  to  see  the  dead,  to  paint  a  picture  upon  a 
prison  wall,  to  have  ways  to  escape,  to  be  free — aU  this  out  of 
Memory.  Surely  this  was  '  the  breath  of  life '  breathed  into 
the  brain  of  man  when  God  gave  him  '  a  living  soul.'  And  yet 
there  are  people  who  say  they  cannot  see  the  soul  ! 

While  I  was  thus  far  away  in  memory  in  the  lone  spaces  an 
unexpected  piece  of  good  fortune  happened.  Horatio  Nelson 
Case  had  '  struck  oil.'  A  syndicate  had  been  formed  in  Canada 
for  the  development  of  Petrolia,  and  our  plot  of  forest-land 
was  wanted  by  it.  Case  was  adamantine.  He  would  only 
take  six  thousand  pounds  for  our  lot.  He  got  it.  I  tele- 
graphed to  my  officer-partner  in  Bermuda  to  proceed  at  once 
on  leave  to  Canada  to  be  present  at  the  division  of  profits. 
He  could  not,  or  would  not  go.  The  profit  available  appeared 
to  be  a  simple  sum — five  thousand  two  hundred  pounds  to  be 
halved,  and  halved  again.  But  in  business  of  this  kind  there 
is  nothing  simple  ;  it  is  always  compound.  I  had  calculated 
my  share  of  one  thousand  three  hundred  pounds,  but  somehow 
or  other  it  worked  out  a  good  deal  less.  It  always  does.  Any- 
how the  conclusion  of  the  '  bear  '  transaction,  begun  in  the 
Brooke  Swamp  three  years  earlier,  left  me  with  a  clear  thou- 
sand pounds.  Had  it  come  a  year  or  two  earlier  I  would 
undoubtedly  have  purchased  a  company  in  the  69th  Regiment, 
and  might  have  eventually  blossomed  into  a  retired  major. 
So,  my  dear  yoimg  friend,  if  you  meet  with  a  check  in  life  or 
a  disappointment  in  your  profession,  as  in  three  cases  out  of 
four  you  are  bound  to  do,  remember  an  old  soldier's  advice, 
'  Go  on  again.'  Repack  your  knapsack  if  necessary,  but 
whatever  articles  you  throw  out  of  it,  don't  unload  that  imagin- 
ary baton  of  field-marshal.     It  costs  nothing  to  carry,  it  has 


TO  THE  WILDS  AGAIN  137 

no  value  to  anybody  except  yourself  ;    but  neither  has  the 
apple  of  your  eye. 

In  the  middle  of  April  1872  I  was  gazetted  to  an  unattached 
(half-pay)  company  in  the  army.  I  had  finished  my  book, 
and  sent  the  MS.  to  a  publisher,  and  was  immensely  pleased 
when  he  was  good  enough  to  accept  it.  I  was  now  free  to  go 
where  I  chose,  and  I  chose  the  wilds  again.  I  left  my  postal 
address  at  the  War  Office,  '  Carlton  House,  Saskatchewan.' 
I  have  an  idea  that  the  name  '  Carlton  '  in  the  address  induced 
the  clerk  in  the  War  Office  who  had  to  deal  with  the  postal 
addresses  of  officers  to  refrain  from  raising  any  objection  to  the 
remainder  of  the  domiciliary  location  ;  or  it  may  have  been 
that  the  head  of  his  department,  with  a  wider  geographical 
knowledge,  had  said  to  his  subordinate  when  the  pap^  was 
presented  to  him,  '  Not  far  off  enough.'  In  any  case,  no 
objection  was  raised.  Carlton  House  was  at  that  time  nine 
hundred  miles  from  the  nearest  railway  station,  but  it  was 
the  point  of  distribution  for  the  winter  packet  dog-post, 
which  left  Fort  Garry  just  before  Christmas ;  and  wherever  I 
might  be  in  the  territories  of  the  Hudson  Ba}"  Company, 
letters  would  find  me  some  time.  Then  I  started  for  New 
York. 

I  set  out  with  no  fixed  plan  of  travel.  I  wanted  to  go 
beyond  where  I  had  been  before,  and  the  '  beyond  '  that  lay 
to  the  north  of  the  Saskatchewan  Vallej^  was  a  very  big  place. 
You  could  get  a  round  two  thousand  miles  in  it  in  almost  any 
direction  north  of  an  east  and  west  line  running  through  Fort 
Carlton. 

I  had  a  general  idea  of  getting  into  the  basin  of  the  Mackenzie 
River,  descending  that  great  stream  nearly  to  its  mouth,  then 
going  into  the  valley  of  the  Yukon,  '  and  so  on  and  so  on,' 
as  my  Levantine  interpreter  used  to  say  on  the  Nile,  twelve 
years  later,  when  he  had  exhausted  the  one  hundred  and 
twenty-five  English  one-syllable  words  which  were  his  entire 
linguistic  stock-in-trade,  and  the  possession  of  which  enabled 
him  to  draw  the  pay  and  allowances  of  a  major  in  the  British 
army. 

In  the  few  months  I  had  spent  in  Chatham  I  was  in  the 
habit  of  visiting  the  library  of  the  Royal  Geographical  Society. 
It  was  the  time  when  Livingstone  had  not  been  heard  of  for 


138    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

years  ;  an  expedition  was  being  organised  by  the  Society  to 
look  for  him.  I  ofiFered  my  services,  was  not  accepted,  and, 
true  to  the  old  habit  of  '  going  on  again,'  I  set  out  shortly 
after  in  the  opposite  direction  to  Lake  Bangweolo  (where  the 
great  missionary-explorer  had  been  last  heard  of),  with  the 
result  that,  just  one  year  later,  I  found  myself  at  Lake  Atha- 
basca, twelve  hundred  miles  north-west  of  Fort  Garry,  with 
the  prospect  of  another  twelve  hundred  miles  up  the  valley  of 
the  Peace  River  to  the  Pacific  coast  at  Vancouver.  The 
narrative  of  that  journey  has  been  written  long  ago.^ 

Before  striking  north  from  Fort  Carlton  I  had  spent  three 
months  in  a  hut  at  the  '  forks  '  of  the  Saskatchewan,  in  com- 
pany with  a  brother  officer  of  my  regiment,  and  trusted  friend. 
Captain  Mansfield.  Mansfield  had  left  the  69th  Regiment, 
tired  of  serving  without  seeing  service.  We  had  a  plan  that, 
after  tasting  again  the  wild  life  of  the  prairies,  we  would  settle 
in  some  part  of  the  Saskatchewan  Valley,  and  begin  ranching 
life  there  with  a  herd  of  cattle  driven  from  the  States.  Had 
we  carried  this  intention  into  efiEect,  our  ranch  would  have 
been  the  first  of  its  kind  in  the  Canadian  North- West.  At 
that  time  I  think  I  may  say  with  truth  that  I  stood  almost 
alone  in  my  belief  that  this  vast  region  had  a  great  future 
before  it.  Among  all  the  officers  of  the  Hudson  Bay  Com- 
pany I  did  not  know  one  who  believed  in  the  potentialities 
of  the  land  in  which  they  had  spent  their  lives.  Furs  it  had, 
and  minerals  it  might  have,  but  for  the  grain  or  food  products 
of  the  earth,  they  did  not  think  anything  of  it.  Even  at 
Winnipeg  at  this  time  so  slight  were  the  expectations  that 
the  place  would  become  the  site  of  a  large  city  that  I  was 
offered,  in  the  month  of  August  1872,  sixteen  hundred  acres 
of  land,  where  the  town  stands  to-day,  for  sixteen  hundred 
pounds.  This  offer  was  pressed  upon  me  by  an  old  army 
pensioner.  Mulligan  by  name,  who  had  gradually  bought  up 
for  a  mere  trifle  the  grants  of  land  given  to  private  soldiers 
in  the  6th  Regiment  some  twenty  years  earlier.  Dissatisfied 
with  the  trend  of  public  opinion  after  the  Riel  Rebellion  of  1870, 
he  was  desirous  of  leaving  the  place  for  ever.  For  myself,  I 
am  not  sorry  that  I  stuck  to  the  army  ship.  The  best  and  the 
worst  that  can  be  said  of  it  is  that  it  is  a  poor  profession  :   I 

1  The  Wild  North  Land.     (E.  B.) 


THE  ARMY  :MAN— A  DIGRESSION  139 

hope  it  wiU  long  remain  so.  'I  look  around  on  every  side/ 
wrote  Carlyle,  '  and  I  see  one  honest  man  in  the  community. 
He  is  the  drill  sergeant/  WeU,  I  will  not  go  so  far  as  that ; 
but  this  I  can  say,  that  if  the  soldier  be  honest  it  is  because  he 
is  poor,  and  if  he  is  poor  it  is  because  he  is  honest.  He  is  unfit 
for  business,  they  teU  me,  and  I  agree  with  those  who  say  so. 
You  will  usually  find  that  when  the  soldier  has  tried  his  hajid 
at  business  he  has  made  a  fool  of  himself,  and  has  lost  his  httle 
money.  He  believes  in  others,  that  is  the  mistake  he  makes 
in  business  ;  he  thinks  that  a  man's  word  spoken  should  have 
as  much  weight  as  when  it  is  written  across  a  penny  postage 
stamp,  and  he  finds  out,  generally  too  late,  that  it  hasn't. 
Even  when  the  soldier  tries  to  be  a  rogue,  he  usually  makes 
a  mess  of  it.  He  is  like  a  trooper  in  the  11th  Hussars  at 
Canterbury,  who  once  complained  to  his  general  that  whenever 
there  was  a  row  in  the  town  he  was  invariably  caught  by  the 
police,  because  of  the  cherry-coloured  breeches  he  was  com- 
pelled to  wear  :  *  them  darker-coloured  overall  chaps  get  off,' 
but  he,  the  red-breeched  one,  was  sure  to  be  nailed  in  the  end, 
no  matter  how  many  comers  he  got  round  in  the  run  home  to 
barracks.  In  no  part  of  the  Empire  does  the  soldier  make  such 
a  fool  of  himself  as  inside  of  Temple  Bar,  East  of  that  historic 
boundary  he  is  a  child  ;  there  was  no  necessity  for  the  City 
Fathers  to  stipulate  that  soldiers  should  unfix  bayonets  when- 
ever they  came  within  the  city  precincts  :  they  disarm  them- 
selves when  they  go  there.  There  were  only  two  soldiers  in 
history  who  did  well  in  the  city  of  London  :  one  was  Oliver 
Cromwell,  the  other  was  George  Monk.  They  both  plundered 
it. 

I  think  I  may  add  to  this  digression  by  putting  down  a  httle 
incident  which  happened  in  the  Crimean  War,  but  of  which  I 
only  became  aware  two  years  ago.  On  the  night  preceding 
the  attack  on  the  Redan  on  the  18th  June  1855,  a  party  of 
officers  of  the  Fourth  Division,  who  were  detailed  for  the  assault, 
were  playing  cards  in  a  tent  on  the  heights  before  Sebastopol. 
The  '  fall  in  '  was  to  go  at  2  a.m.,  and  there  was  no  use  in 
lying  down  that  night.  Before  the  card-party  broke  up 
accounts  were  settled.  A  cousin  of  mine — a  captain  in  the 
57th  Regiment — received  from  a  captain  in  the  17th  Foot, 
named    Croker,  an  I  O  U  for  a  considerable  sum  of  money, 


140     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

which  he,  Croker,  had  lost  to  my  relative.  A  few  hours  later 
Croker  was  killed  at  the  Redan.  There  had  only  been  a  half- 
hour  s  interval  between  the  '  fall  out '  for  the  game  of  cards 
and  the  '  faU  in  '  for  the  great  game  of  war,  so  of  course  my 
cousin  tore  up  the  I  0  U,  and  thought  no  more  about  the  trans- 
action. A  couple  of  months  later  he  received  a  letter  from 
the  army  agents,  Cox  &  Co.,  in  London,  informing  him  that 
they  had  received  on  the  day  of  his  death  an  advice  from  the 

late  Captain  Croker  directing  the  sum  of  £ to  be  placed 

to  the  account  of  Captain  Butler  in  their  hands.  So  much  has 
been  said  and  written  in  recent  years  against  the  old  army 
and  the  old  regimental  system  that  I  give  this  little  incident 
as  a  trifling  tribute  to  both. 

During  the  autumn  and  winter  of  1872,  and  the  first  half 
of  1873,  I  had  movement,  sport,  travel,  and  adventure  suffi- 
cient to  satisfy  the  longings  of  anybody.  I  was  at  that  time 
boiling  with  the  spirit  of  movement,  and  distance  alone  sufficed 
to  lend  enchantment  to  my  prospect  of  travel.  The  scene 
could  not  be  too  remote,  nor  the  theatre  too  lonely.  The 
things  I  did  not  want  to  see  or  know  of  were  trains  and  steam- 
boats ;  the  canoe  or  the  prairie  pony  in  summer,  the  snow- 
shoe  and  dog-sled  in  winter,  one's  own  feet  and  legs  at  all  times 
— these  were  good  enough  for  passing  over  the  surface  of  God's 
wonderful  world.  I  was  a  fair  shot,  and  even  where  the 
Hudson  Bay  Companj^'s  posts  were  some  hundred  miles  apart, 
and  Indian  camps  were  few  and  far  between,  the  gun  and  the 
baited  fish-hook  could  still  provide  dinner  and  supper;  and 
for  bed,  old  Mother  Earth  gave  it,  and  the  pine  brush  made 
mattress  and  pillow.  I  have  often  thought  that  the  reply  of 
the  once  potent  Indian  chief.  Black  Hawk,  to  the  American 
commissioner  who  offered  him  a  chair  to  sit  on  at  a  conference 
on  the  Upper  Mississippi  eighty  years  ago,  held  in  it  the  whole 
secret  and  soul  of  the  wilderness.  '  Thank  you,'  said  the 
Indian  chief,  as  he  seated  himself  on  the  ground,  '  the  Earth  is 
my  mother,  and  on  her  bosom  I  can  rest  myself.'  You  can 
never  know  that  mother  until  you  go  and  live  with  her  in  the 
wilderness  ;  it  is  only  there  that  she  takes  you  on  her  lap 
and  whispers  to  you  her  secret  things.  It  is  only  when  you 
join  the  ranks  of  the  wild  things  that  they  will  accept  you  as 
one  of  themselves  and  will  cease  to  look  at  you  as  a  stranger. 


BACK  TO  CIVILISED  TRAVEL  141 

Fancy  a  place  where  there  are  no  drains,  no  coal  smoke,  no 
factory  chimneys ;  where  you  cannot  speak  ill  of  your  neigh- 
bour, nor  envy  him,  nor  tell  him  the  simplest  form  of  He,  nor 
be  bored  by  him — that  last,  the  greatest  of  all  the  earthly 
beatitudes  !  And  the  strange  part  of  it  is  that  if  you  have 
once  tasted  well  of  the  wild  fruit,  you  have  got  an  antidote  for 
ever  against  being  bored.  INIy  friends  sometimes  say  to  me, 
*  How  can  you  listen  so  patiently  to  that  terrible  old  bore, 
General  Pounce  ? '  or,  'I  saw  you  to-day  in  the  morning- 
room  with  that  stupid  old  Major  de  Trop,  and  you  seemed  to 
be  hanging  on  every  word  he  said/  At  which  I  smile,  but 
say  nothing,  for  it  would  destroy  my  happiness  if  the  secret 
were  known.  As  he  ripples  along,  I  launch  my  canoe  on  the 
stream  of  his  story,  merely  on  the  sound  of  it,  and  I  sail  away 
into  the  lone  spaces.  It  is  the  Athabasca,  the  river  of  the 
meadows,  the  Souris  River,  the  river  that  echoes,  that  I  am 
on  again.  He,  poor  fellow,  hasn't  the  sUghtest  suspicion  of 
what  I  am  doing.  He  never  asks  me  a  question.  He  wants 
none  of  my  thoughts,  and  he  gets  none.  He  only  wants  some- 
thing to  speak  at,  and  I  give  him  that  generously.  Then, 
when  he  is  quite  tired,  he  goes  away,  and  I  go  to  the  writing- 
table  and  scribble  down  some  doggerel  such  as  this  : — 

'  If  a  bore  had  seen  what  one  swallow  saw 
Or  could  read  from  a  rook  his  Mayday  caw 
Or  could  riddle  aright  one  wild-bee's  hum, 
No  bore  he  would  be — but  he  might  be  dumb.' 

But  then  we  would  have  changed  places,  and  I  might  have  been 
the  bore. 

At  last,  in  the  middle  of  1873,  I  got  out  through  that  great 
tangle  of  mountains,  lake,  and  rushing  river  which  forms  the 
northern  portion  of  British  Columbia,  and  with  one  dog,  the 
untiring  '  Cerf  volant,'  for  companion,  reached  the  ways  of 
civilised  travel  and  the  Pacific  Ocean.  In  the  very  centre  of 
this  tangle  of  mountains  and  rapids  I  had  struck  a  small 
camp  of  gold-miners  at  a  place  called  Germanson,  on  the 
Ominica  River,  a  large  tributary  stream  which  joins  the  Peace 
River  west  of  the  Rocky  Mountains.  To  get  to  this  spot  we 
had  been  working  for  twenty  days  in  a  '  dug-out '  canoe 
against  the  flooded  stream  of  the  Ominica,     We  were  a  party 


142     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

of  four.  The  steersman  was  a  little  Frenchman  from  Belfort, 
Jacques  Pardonnet  by  name,  a  man  of  extraordinary  know- 
ledge and  pluck,  qualities  to  which  was  mainly  due  under 
Providence  our  escape  from  many  perUs  of  rock  and  rapid, 
whirlpool  and  ice-floe,  for  we  had  launched  our  '  dug-out '  on 
the  Upper  Peace  River  before  the  ice  had  been  cleared  from  the 
current. 

As  we  drew  near  Germanson,  Jacques  began  to  speak  at 
the  camp  fire  in  the  evening  of  an  English  captain  who  was  at 
the  mining  camp  the  previous  year.  He  called  him  by  a  name 
that  had  been  familiar  to  me  at  Fermoy  fourteen  years  earlier  : 
if  he  had  known  the  officer's  Christian  name  identification 
would  have  been  assured,  for  the  first  name  had  been  Napoleon  ; 
but  he  knew  only  the  captain's  surname.  On  entering  German- 
son  the  first  person  I  came  upon  was  the  very  man. 

It  was  the  end  of  August  when  I  got  back  to  Canada  proper, 
the  Canada  of  the  St.  Lawrence  River.  I  was  fairly  puzzled 
what  next  to  do.  The  long  traU  through  the  north  and  west 
by  the  Athabasca  and  Peace  River  to  the  Pacific  had  eaten  a 
big  hole  iuto  the  round  thousand  won  out  of  the  day  in  Brooke 
Swamp  three  years  earlier.  To  tell  the  truth,  it  is  a  very  wide 
step  from  the  real  wilderness  to  that  state  of  semi-civilised 
savagery  which  is  the  life  of  the  frontier  settler,  those  first 
and  second  stages  in  the  evolution  of  the  ranch  and  the  wheat- 
field  from  the  primaeval  prairie  and  the  pme  forest.  When  the 
wild  man  and  the  buffalo  disappear  from  the  stage,  the  next 
comer,  whether  man  or  beast,  doesn't  show  to  advantage. 
Even  the  old  white  hunter,  the  trapper,  the  '  Leather-Stocking  ' 
of  the  immortal  Fenimore  Cooper,  has  to  fold  up  his  camping- 
kit,  shoulder  his  rifle,  and  move  off  into  lonelier  lands  or  deeper 
forests.  He  cannot  stand  it.  As  it  was  in  '  the  old  Colonial 
days  '  of  America,  so  was  it  forty  years  ago.  When  I  first  went 
to  the  Platte  River  in  1867  a  few  '  Leather-Stockings  '  were 
stni  to  be  found  at  the  forts  of  the  United  States  troops  ;  and 
foremost  among  that  small,  lessening  band  was  the  celebrated 
Bridger,  the  grizzled  veteran  of  the  great  days  of  Captain 
Bonneville,  Fitzpatrick,  and  Sublette.  One  day  a  newcomer 
from  the  east,  seeing  this  old  veteran  Bridger  standing  silent 
at  Laramie,  thought  to  open  conversation  by  asking  if  it  was 
not  a  long  time  since  he  had  come  out  west.     The  old  hunter 


OFFER  OF  SERVICE  FOR  THE  GOLD  COAST     143 

did  not  seem  to  have  heard  his  questioner,  and  the  remark  was 
repeated.  Then  Bridger  took  his  pipe  from  his  mouth,  and 
gravely  answered  as  he  pointed  towards  Pike's  Peak  in 
the  west :  '  Young  man,  do  you  see  that  thar  peak  ?  ' 
*  Yes/  '  Well,  when  I  came  out  to  these  prairies  that  thar 
peak  was  a  hole  in  the  ground.'  He  then  went  on  smoking 
again. 

One  evening  when  I  was  in  this  undecided  frame  of  mind 
as  to  where  I  would  go  and  what  I  would  next  do,  I  opened  a 
paper  in  an  hotel  at  Ottawa,  and  read  in  the  cablegram  from 
England  the  announcement  that  an  expedition  was  being 
prepared  for  the  West  Coast  of  Africa.  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley 
was  to  command.  His  stafif  would  consist  of  many  officers 
who  had  served  under  him  on  the  Red  River  expedition.  No 
troops  were  to  be  sent  until  after  the  general  and  his  officers 
had  reached  the  West  Coast.  It  was  expected  that  this  cam- 
paign would  be  over  by  March.  Sir  Garnet  and  his  friends 
were  to  sail  from  England  on  the  8th  September.  That  was 
all.  It  was  now  the  30th  August.  I  read  the  message  carefully 
a  second  time,  took  in  the  situation,  went  to  the  telegraph- 
office,  and  sent  a  message  to  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley  in  London 
that  I  was  coming.  Then  looking  up  the  steamer  sailings  I 
found  that  there  was  a  steamer  leaving  New  York  on  the  3rd 
September.  The  telegrams  of  the  next  day  brought  further 
particulars.  The  well-known  unhealthiness  of  the  West  Coast 
of  Africa  generally,  and  of  the  Gold  Coast  in  particular,  was 
the  reason  assigned  for  the  extraordinary  fact  that  no  troops 
were  being  sent  with  the  general  and  his  staff  to  the  new  seat 
of  war.  It  was  hoped  that  the  native  negro  levies  would  suffice. 
If,  after  the  general  had  arrived  at  Cape  Coast  Castle,  it  was 
found  that  the  natives  would  not  fight  the  soldiers  of  the  King 
of  Ashanti,  then  white  troops  would  be  sent  from  England, 
and  an  advance  made  upon  Coomassie. 

It  is  the  most  precious  privilege  of  youth  not  to  question 
anything.  ^\'liat  did  it  matter  if  the  Gold  Coast  had  been  the 
White  Man's  Grave  ever  since  Columbus  had  been  there  ? 
One  never  dreamt  of  asking  whether  a  climate  was  good  or 
bad.  A  missionary  who  would  stop  to  inquire  if  his  pre- 
decessor had  disagreed  with  the  caimibal  king  who  had  eaten 
him  would  be  as  ridiculous  as  the  young  soldier  who  troubled 


144    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

his  head  as  to  the  precise  points  of  disagreement  between  his 
constitution  and  the  climate  of  the  country  to  which  he  was 
bound.  It  is  the  business  of  the  young  soldier  to  agree  with 
his  climate  even  when  it  disagrees  with  him. 

Even  the  quickest  of  steamships  went  slowly  in  those  days 
compared  with  the  ocean  fliers  of  to-day.  The  Russia 
took  ten  days  to  get  to  Liverpool,  and  I  missed  the  start 
of  Sir  Garnet  and  his  staff  from  the  same  port  by  eight 
hours. 

I  remember  little  of  the  voyage  save  a  small  personal  in- 
cident in  it  which  was  a  pleasant  surprise  to  me.  I  had  left 
England  seventeen  months  earlier,  while  my  Mttle  book  of 
travel  was  still  in  the  printer's  hands.  Its  subsequent  fortunes 
were  therefore  scarcely  known  to  me,  for  I  had  been  buried  in 
the  wilds  during  the  greater  part  of  the  interval.  One  evening, 
when  I  was  sitting  in  the  smoking-room  of  the  steamer,  a  man 
observed  to  another  passenger,  '  I  hear  the  author  of  The 
Great  Lone  Land  is  on  board  the  steamer."  As  I  had  the 
manuscript  of  another  book  of  northern  travel  in  my  bag, 
nearly  completed,  the  chance  remark  was  doubly  pleasant  to 
me.  Perhaps  I  should  find  some  balance  in  the  Army  bankers' 
hands  to  my  credit,  and  perhaps,  too,  the  publishers  of  my 
first  literary  venture  would  be  favourably  disposed  to  try  a 
second  one. 

When  I  reached  London  from  America,  I  found  a  message 
from  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley  directing  me  to  follow  him  to  the 
Gold  Coast,  and  I  received  official  information  from  the  War 
Office  that  my  passage  would  be  provided  in  a  West  African 
steamer,  sailing  on  the  30th  September.  So  on  the  last  day 
of  September  I  left  England  again  in  the  steamer  Benin  bound 
for  Cape  Coast  Castle.  A  terrible-smeUing  craft  was  the  old 
Benin.  Fever  seemed  to  have  established  itself  securely  amid 
her  close,  Ul-kept  decks.  A  couple  of  voyages  earlier,  eleven 
men  had  died  out  of  her  small  crew,  a  steward  and  two  cabin 
servants  being  among  them.  On  this  voyage  of  ours  the 
captain  and  some  half-dozen  others  were  to  go.  Like  every 
other  sea-captain  I  had  ever  sailed  with,  this  commander  of 
the  Benin,  Captain  Stone,  was  a  splendid  fellow.  '  I  hope  to 
be  back  again  by  Christmas,'  he  said,  *  and  to  spend  the  holidays 
with  my  wife  at  home  in  Dublin.'     He  never  came  back.     A 


ARRIVAL  AT  CAPE  COAST  CASTLE  145 

month  later  he  was  in  a  hammock-shroud  mider  the  waters 
somewhere  m  the  steaming  Bight  of  Benin. 

'  Remember,  remember  the  Bight  of  Benin  ; 
Few  come  out,  though  many  go  in.' 

So  ran  the  old  sailor's  song  of  our  grandfathers'  days,  when 
Tom  Cringle  kept  his  log  and  Captain  Marryat  wrote  his  sea- 
stories.    They  tell  me  things  are  better  there  to-day.    Perhaps. 

The  Benin  touched  at  many  places  on  the  coast — Sierra 
Leone,  Palmas,  Liberia,  Jack- Jack,  and  Monrovia.  A  little 
while  before,  a  strange  thing  had  happened  at  the  last-named 
place.  All  these  ships  trading  to  West  Africa  carried  in  round 
holes  near  the  scuppers  on  the  deck  two  rows  of  roundshot, 
six  or  nine  pounders  ;  these  were  not  for  hostile  use,  they  were 
kept  for  a  funereal  purpose — that  of  sinking  the  poor  dead  men 
deep  in  the  Bight  of  Benin,  by  being  fastened  to  the  foot  of 
the  hammock-shroud.  But  one  day  when  the  vessel  was 
steaming  into  Monrovia,  and  the  signal  gun  had  been  duly 
loaded  with  powder  for  the  blank  shot  which  was  to  wake  up 
the  government  and  postal  officials  of  that  place,  a  wag  on 
board  quietly  dropped  one  of  these  roundshots  into  the  carron- 
ade  on  the  top  of  the  powder.  Presently,  bang  !  went  the  alarm 
gun,  and  then  a  round  black  object  was  observed  hurling  itself 
through  the  air  in  the  direction  of  the  wooden  pier  whereon 
the  sable  officials  were  already  drawn  up  in  state  to  greet  the 
English  steamer.  The  shot  struck  the  pier,  sending  woodwork 
flying  in  all  directions  ;  the  officials  fled,  the  President  of  the 
RepubUc  of  Liberia  leading,  the  Postmaster-General,  a  very 
old  negro,  bringing  up  the  rear.  I  never  heard  how  the  matter 
ended. 

The  Benin  reached  Cape  Coast  Castle  early  on  the  22nd 
October.  A  surf-boat  came  out  with  an  officer  for  mails.  He 
ofifered  to  put  me  on  shore.  As  we  paddled  in  through  the 
heavy  surf,  which  is  ever  rolling  in  three  great  lines  of  foam 
against  the  shores  of  tropical  Africa,  I  asked  the  officer  his 
name.  It  was  the  same  as  that  of  '  the  captain,'  formerly  of 
Fermoy,  whom  I  had  left  at  the  Ominica  gold-mine  in  British 
Columbia  four  months  earlier.  '  Any  relation  in  America  ?  ' 
'  A  brother  somewhere  in  the  wilds  of  whom  I  have  not  heard 
for  years,  if  he  is  stiU  alive,'  he  answered.     '  He  was  alive  four 

K 


146     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

months  ago,'  I  replied ;  '  and  what  is  more,  he  gave  me  a 
message  for  his  brother  in  the  service,  should  I  chance  to  fall 
in  with  him.'  I  had  come  almost  straight  from  that  distant 
spot.  The  first  man  I  met  at  the  end  of  the  fifteen  thousand 
miles  was  the  brother  of  the  last  man  I  had  seen  in  Ominica. 


CHAPTER  X 

West  Coast  of  Africa.     '  The  Wolseley  Gang.'     Beating  up  the  natives. 
Recalcitrant  kings.     Fever.     The  forest.     Invading  Ashanti. 

As  steam  bends  the  stoutest  blackthorn  wood,  so  the  hot,  moist 
climate  of  the  Gold  Coast  bends  and  makes  limp  the  stoutest 
human  body. 

This  melting  work  begins  even  before  the  coast  is  reached. 
No  sooner  has  the  ship  turned  eastward  from  the  Atlantic  into 
the  '  Bights  '  than  an  immediate  change  becomes  perceptible 
in  the  atmosphere ;  an  oppressive,  damp,  steamy  air  is 
breathed  ;  the  body  streams  with  perspiration  of  a  clammy, 
weakening  kind  ;  the  very  sap  of  strength  is  bleeding  at  every 
pore.  There  is  no  fury  about  the  heat.  Compared  with  the 
range  of  the  thermometer  in  the  Soudan,  or  even  in  India,  the 
heat  on  the  coast  or  in  the  forest  behind  it  is  nothing  ;  but 
it  is  incessant,  unvarying,  and  its  quality  of  excessive  dampness 
is  the  killing  factor  in  it.  The  sapping  process  goes  on  night 
and  day  :  a  peculiar  damp,  leaden  look  is  on  the  skin.  As 
poor  Prince  Henry  of  Battenberg  wrote  of  the  climate  twenty 
years  later,  '  the  damp  heat  is  indescribable,  so  also  is  the 
effect  it  produces.  Even  if  you  sit  quiet  without  moving, 
perspiration  streams  off  your  body  day  and  night.  The  air 
reeks  with  malaria  and  poison.  .  .  .  What  would  not  one  give 
for  a  few  whiffs  of  pure  air  without  these  dreadful  miasmas 
that  hang  about  one  like  ghosts  !  '  But  on  the  day  of  arrival 
all  this  had  yet  to  be  learnt ;  and  I  stepped  ashore  from  the 
surf-boat,  and  went  up  the  wretched  street  that  led  from  the 
old  Slave  Castle  to  Government  House  with  as  light  a  step 
as  though  I  were  still  in  the  Black  Caiion  of  the  far-away 
Ominica. 

The  general  and  his  staff  were  assembling  for  breakfast. 
It  was  pleasant  to  meet  old  friends  of  Red  River  days  again 
— Redvers  Buller,  Huyshe,  McCalmont.     Baker  Russell  was 

U7 


148    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

down  with  fever,  and  McNeill  with  wounds.  New  men 
were  there  too  :  Brackenbury,  Maurice,  Lanyon.  Evelyn 
Wood  was  at  Elmina.  Hume  was  making  a  road  towards 
Coomassie.  It  was  the  habit  in  later  years  to  call  these  men, 
and  a  few  others, '  The  Wolseley  Gang/  I  see  in  the  dictionary 
that  the  word  is  derived  from  the  Danish,  and  that  it  means,  in 
its  primitive  sense,  '  to  go,'  but  I  don't  think  that  was  the 
meanmg  its  users  attached  to  it.  I  see,  too,  that  its  modem 
signification  is  sometimes  '  a  number  of  persons  associated  for  a 
certain  purpose,  usually  a  bad  one.'  I  look  back  now  over 
nigh  forty  years,  and  I  don't  think  there  was  any  bad  purpose 
individually  or  collectively  in  that  httle  group  of  men.  I 
accept  with  pleasure  the  Danish  definition  of  the  word, '  to  go.' 
We,  for  I  was  a  humble  member,  certainly  did  go  :  some 
dropped  on  the  road  early,  and  others  fell  out  later  ;  a  few 
struggled  on  to  the  end.  They  rest  in  many  places  :  one  at 
Prah-su,  another  under  Majuba,  another  in  the  middle  of  the 
Desert  of  Bajaida,  another  at  Spion  Kop,  another  under  the 
sea  near  St.  Helena,  another  in  the  sands  at  Tel-el-Kebir, 
another  in  the  veldt  at  Magersfontein.  Poor  old  '  Gang  '  ! 
They  kept  going  as  long  as  they  could  go,  and  now  they  are 
nearly  aU  gone.     May  they  rest  in  peace  ! 

It  would  have  been  difficult  to  match  the  military  situa- 
tion which  was  now  existing  in  and  around  Cape  Coast 
Castle.  A  general  and  some  thirty  or  forty  officers  of  various 
abihties  had  landed  on  the  most  pestilential  shore  in  the 
world  for  the  avowed  object  of  driving  back  a  horde  of  forty 
thousand  splendidlj^  disciplined  African  savages,  who  had 
invaded  British  territory.  AU  the  hopes  founded  upon  the 
idea  that  the  native  races  who  lived  under  our  protection  in 
the  forest  lying  between  the  sea  and  the  River  Prah — Fantis, 
Assims,  Abras,  and  others — would  rally  under  English  leader- 
ship to  do  battle  against  their  hereditary  enemies,  the  Ashantis, 
had  proved  entirely  fallacious.  Palaver  had  followed  palaver, 
the  chiefs  and  kinglets  were  profuse  in  promise,  feeble  in 
performance,  and  cowardly  in  action.  Nothing  could  induce 
them  to  tackle  the  Ashanti  enemy.  If  men  wanted  to  study 
the  ejffect,  good  and  evil,  upon  man  brought  up  with  discipline 
and  without  it,  here  on  this  coast  was  to  be  found  the  best  field 
for  such  an  inquiry.     On  one  side  of  the  Prah  River  lived  a 


THE  SLAVE  TRADE  149 

people  possessing  to  an  extraordinary  degree  a  high  military 
spirit,  on  the  other  a  people  as  cowardly  as  could  be  found 
anywhere  on  earth.  Both  were  of  the  same  race  :  in  ancestry, 
colour,  size,  language,  and  feature  they  were  identical.  A 
hundred  years  earUer  they  had  been  one  kingdom  :  what  had 
happened  to  make  this  extraordinary  change  in  character 
and  habit  ? 

I  think  it  would  be  correct  to  say  that  beyond  the  Prah  the 
old  African  idea  of  a  cruel  but  effective  system  of  despotic 
authority  had  been  maintained  ;  and  that  to  the  south  of  that 
little  river  of  forty  yards  span  the  blessings  of  trade  and  com- 
merce had  steadily  sapped  the  moral  strength  and  physical 
courage  of  the  '  protected  '  tribes. 

An  American  writer  has  said  that  if  you  put  a  chain  round 
the  neck  of  a  slave,  the  other  end  of  the  chain  will  fasten 
itself  round  your  own  neck.  Perhaps  that  was  what  had 
happened  here.  This  coast  had  been  for  two  hundred  and 
more  years  the  greatest  slave  preserve  in  the  world.  All 
these  castles  dotted  along  the  surf-beaten  shore  at  ten  or 
twelve  mile  intervals  were  the  prisons  where,  in  the  days  of  the 
slave-trade,  milhons  of  wretched  negroes  had  been  immured, 
waiting  the  arrival  of  slave-ships  from  Bristol  or  Liverpool  to 
load  the  human  cargo  for  West  Indian  or  American  ports.  It 
would  not  be  too  much  to  say  that  from  each  of  these  prison- 
castles  to  some  West  Indian  port,  a  cable  of  slave  skeletons 
must  be  lying  at  the  bottom  of  the  ocean.  In  that  terrible 
trade  the  protected  tribes  of  the  coast  were  the  prime  brokers. 
They  bought  from  the  black  interior  kingdoms  of  Dahomey 
and  Ashanti,  and  they  sold  to  the  white  merchant  traders  of 
Europe  ;  slaves,  rum,  and  gunpowder  were  the  cliief  items  in 
the  bills  of  lading.  The  gunpowder  went  to  the  interior,  the 
rum  was  drunk  on  the  coast,  the  slaves,  or  those  who  survived 
among  them,  went  to  America.  If  two  in  ten  lived  through 
the  horrors  of  the  middle  passage  the  trade  paid.  John 
Wesley  knew  what  he  was  talking  about  when  he  said  of  that 
heUish  traffic  that  it  was  '  the  sum  of  all  human  villanies  '  ; 
and  yet  there  never  was  one  man  in  the  world  to  whom  it  was 
possible  to  know  even  half  of  the  villanies  concentrated  in 
that  single  phrase — the  slave-trade. 

After  a  week  on  the  coast,  one  began  to  know  the  way  of 


160    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

things  fairly  well.  This  coast  had  ways  of  its  own  that  no 
other  coast  known  to  me  possessed.  Our  forty  special-service 
oflScers  and  their  motley  groups  of  natives  were  distributed 
between  the  seaports  of  Elmina  and  Cape  Coast  Castle,  and 
in  certain  positions  a  few  miles  inland,  chiefly  along  the  forest 
track  leading  towards  the  River  Prah.  The  great  forest  did 
not  come  right  down  to  the  seashore  ;  there  was  an  interval 
of  bush  some  six  or  eight  miles  deep  before  the  real  trees  began. 
In  this  deep  real  forest  lay  the  Ashanti  army  spread  out 
along  a  circle  of  crooms  or  villages  distant  from  the  sea  about 
twelve  miles.  Little  was  known  about  the  numbers  of  this 
army  :  it  had  originally  been  forty  or  fifty  thousand  men, 
but  many  forms  of  disease  were  said  to  have  thinned  its  ranks 
since  it  had  crossed  the  Prah  six  months  earUer.  StOl  less  was 
known  as  to  the  intentions  of  its  commander,  Amonquatier  by 
name.  The  spies  sent  out  by  us  brought  back  no  trustworthy 
information  ;  they  were  as  cautious  and  as  cowardly  as  were 
their  chiefs  and  kinglets.  At  last  some  tangible  news  reached 
us  from  this  mysterious  Ashanti  camp  at  Mampon.  It  was 
brought  by  a  fugitive  slave  woman  direct  from  the  Ashanti 
headquarters  ;  and  the  story  told  by  the  runaway  had  so  many 
little  bits  of  domestic  detaU  and  family  intrigue  woven  into 
it  that  the  more  important  facts  of  Ashanti  movement  and 
intentions  seemed  to  derive  confirmation  from  the  lighter  parts 
of  the  woman's  tale. 

The  Ashanti  army  in  the  forest  around  Mampon  was  break- 
ing up,  and  was  falling  back  to  the  Prah  River  under  orders 
from  the  King  of  Ashanti.  The  sick  and  wounded  had 
already  moved  ;  the  main  army  would  soon  follow,  but  first 
it  would  take  Abra  Crampa,  a  tOMTi  lying  some  twelve  miles 
from  Cape  Coast  Castle,  near  the  forest  track  to  the  River 
Prah.  This  news,  confirmed  by  reports  from  this  road  of 
Ashanti  scouting  parties  having  appeared  in  the  vicinity, 
put  us  aU  in  action  at  Cape  Coast  Castle.  If  we  only  had  the 
soldiers,  what  an  opportunity  was  now  offered  of  destroying 
the  retreating  army  of  Ashantis  !  It  was  moving  across  our 
front  at  the  slow  rate  of  progression  which  alone  was  possible  in 
this  dense  forest ;  but  we  had  only  a  few  West  Indian  soldiers  with 
which  to  strike  it ;  arms,  ammunition,  forty  officers  brimming 
over  with  energy  and  action,  and  no  men.     During  the  foUow- 


SirETCH    MAP    OF 

English  Miles 


Authors    Route 
Other     Roads 


C) 


A  TYPICAL  DAY  151 

ing  week  some  of  this  band  of  forty  officers  started  off  in  as 
many  directions.  As  for  myself,  I  had  in  me  all  the  power 
and  go  of  the  frozen  lands  I  had  quitted  a  few  months  earlier. 
It  seemed  impossible  that  one  could  not  still  cover  the  old 
American  distances.  Of  course  the  conditions  were  as  opposite 
as  those  which  He  between  the  coldest  ice  and  the  hottest  sun  ; 
but  youth  takes  small  heed  of  such  differences  or  measure- 
ments. Between  the  night  of  25th  October  and  that  of  the 
29th,  I  covered  some  seventy  miles  of  forest  and  swamps, 
in  a  temperature  a  good  deal  higher  than  that  of  the  tropical 
hothouse  at  Kew.  In  these  four  or  five  days  I  had  seen  and 
sampled  the  forest,  the  crooms,  the  kings,  their  armies,  and 
their  method  of  fighting.  A  page  description  ^  of  the  29th 
October  will  suffice  to  tell  the  story  of  many  days  and  places  : 

*  At  daybreak  the  whole  force  was  to  move  to  Dunguah  from 
Abra  Crampa  to  attack  the  wing  of  the  Ashanti  army  near  that 
place.  The  King  of  Abra's  warriors  led.  A  lieutenant  of  the 
Royal  Navy  was  attached  to  this  tribe  :  by  dint  of  extraordinary 
exertions  he  got  his  crowd  into  some  order,  and  cleared  the  village 
two  hours  after  the  appointed  time.  They  were  supposed  to 
number  five  hundred  men :  I  stood  by  the  pathway  and  counted 
them  as  they  passed ;  they  numbered  one  hundred  and  forty  of  all 
ranks.  The  procession  moved  in  this  order  :  six  scouts,  the  king, 
two  blunderbus-men,  one  carr\'ing  a  very  large  horse-pistol,  fifty 
men  with  long  flint-gims,  two  drummers  with  skull  drums,  two 
men  with  powder  barrels,  a  standard-bearer  with  an  old  flag, 
Pollard,  R.N.,  sixty  or  seventy  more  men,  a  large  negro  with  an 
entirely  flat  nose,  and  a  small  crimson  smoking-cap  for  uniform  (he 
was  called  the  Field-Marshal,  and  the  title  was  not  given  in  any 
derisive  .sense).  We  got  to  Assanchi  by  noon.  The  day  was 
fearfully  hot ;  the  sun  streamed  down  upon  the  forest,  drawing 
from  the  darkest  depths  of  tangled  creeper  and  massive  tree-trunk 
a  steam  of  dense,  exhausting  atmosphere.  As  we  emerged  into 
the  overgrown  plantain-gardens  around  the  village  of  Assanchi,  a 
couple  of  shots  were  fired  on  the  left,  and  an  Abra  scout  limped 
in  with  his  legs  cut  by  "  slugs."  The  wildest  confusion  now  ensued 
among  the  Abras,  and  it  was  only  by  actually  laying  hands  upon 
them  and  by  placing  them  in  the  required  positions  facing  the 
enemy  that  any  order  or  plan  could  be  evolved.  While  we  were 
at  this  work  another  volley  announced  a  new  foe  in  the  bush  on 
our  left.  Then  came  shots  and  shouts  from  the  thick  plantain- 
1  From  Akim-foo,  the  History  of  a  Failurt.     (E.  B. ) 


162    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

leaves,  and  runniiig  thither  I  came  upon  six  or  eight  men  struggling 
in  the  dense  brushwood,  some  on  the  ground  and  some  on  their 
legs.  In  the  centre  of  the  mass  there  was  a  short,  stout  savage 
with  his  hair  twisted  into  spiral  spikes  which  stood  straight  out 
from  his  head.  He  was  fighting  for  his  life  ;  and  so  strong  was  he 
that  he  was  able  in  his  twistings  to  move  the  three  or  four  men 
who  had  him  down.  A  couple  of  other  Abras  were  striking  him 
on  the  back  of  his  head  wth  the  butts  of  their  long  "  Dane  "  guns  ; 
but  they  were  unable  to  stop  his  wri things.  At  the  edge  of  the 
group  stood  a  tall  Houssa  soldier  with  a  long  knife  in  hand,  ready 
for  an  opening  which  would  enable  him  to  draw  it  across  the 
throat  of  the  Ashanti.  He  was  so  intent  on  watching  his 
opportunity  that  he  did  not  see  me.  Just  as  I  came  up  the 
unfortunate  underdog  man  heaved  himself  up  a  bit  from  the 
ground,  and  the  movement  seemed  to  give  the  Houssa  the  chance 
he  was  looking  for.  He  leant  forward  to  get  a  better  draw  for  his 
knife  across  the  man's  neck ;  but  as  he  did  so  I  caught  him  full 
on  the  ear  with  my  fist,  and  over  he  went,  knife  and  all,  into  the 
bushes.  At  the  same  instant  the  Ashanti  rose,  and  seeing  a 
white  man  close  to  him  he  threw  himself  forward,  caught  hold  of 
my  hand,  and  -s^as  safe.  He  was  the  first  full-blooded  Ashanti 
taken,  and  I  was  very  glad  to  have  him  because  I  was  doing 
Intelligence  work  at  this  time  for  Redvers  Buller,  who  was  down 
with  fever,  and  we  badly  wanted  sohd  information  from  our 
enemies.  But  what  was  of  more  importance  was  that  Sir  Garnet 
Wolseley  was  in  need  of  some  trusty  messenger  to  send  to  the 
King  of  Ashanti  in  Coomassie,  and  this  prisoner  would  be  just 
the  emissary  to  send  there.  But  before  I  could  get  him  safe  from 
the  crush,  we  were  all  very  near  coming  to  grief,  for  a  fresh  body 
of  Houssas,  belonging  to  Baker  Russell's  regiment,  came  upon  the 
scene,  and  hearing  a  row  going  on  in  the  bushes,  they  levelled  half 
a  dozen  rifles  upon  us,  intent  upon  observing  the  great  rule  of 
African  warfare,  which  is  to  fire  first  and  then  look  to  see  what 
was  fired  at  aftei-wards.  Fortunately  for  us  Baker  Russell  was 
near  this  party :  he  saw  the  situation,  and  the  muzzles  of  the 
Houssa  Sniders  were  thrown  up  at  his  terrific  word  of  command. 
By  this  time  the  marines  and  sailors  in  rear  were  thoroughly 
exhausted ;  the  day  was  swelteringly  hot,  the  path  was  deep  in 
mud  and  water,  and  the  narrow  track  was  only  wide  enough  to 
allow  men  in  single  file  to  move  along  it.  Many  strong  men  went 
down  that  day,  some  of  them  did  not  get  up  again.  The  record 
of  the  day's  work  would  be  incomplete  if  it  did  not  finish  as  it 
began  -nith  the  army  of  the  King  of  Abra  under  the  command  of 


SPECIAL  COmilSSION  TO  WEST  AKTM         153 

Lieutenant  Pollard,  R.N.  It  was  directed  to  feel  its  way  to  the 
main  road  at  Donguah.  It  fell  in  towards  evening  with  an 
Ashanti  camp  :  panic  immediately  ensued ;  the  one  hundred  and 
forty  Abras,  the  Field-Marshal,  the  drums,  and  the  horse-pistol 
man  ran  in  various  directions  through  the  forest.  Pollard  dis- 
charged the  six  barrels  of  his  revolver  at  his  vanishing  army,  and 
found  himself  alone  in  the  great  forest.  He  was  thoroughly  ex- 
hausted, and  night  was  coming  on.  After  a  time  six  or  eight  of 
his  army  crept  back  through  the  bush,  got  him  on  their  shoulders 
and  carried  him  by  a  by-path  to  Akroful  on  the  main  road.' 

I  have  dwelt  upon  this  day's  work  because  it  grouped  into 
it  many  incidents  and  experiences  peculiar  to  West  African 
warfare.  One  saw  then  the  utter  hopelessness  of  the  original 
idea  upon  which  the  expedition  had  been  based — that  our 
debased  and  degenerate  protected  tribes  could  be  able  to  fight 
the  army  of  the  King  of  Ashanti.  One  understood,  too, 
something  at  least  of  what  this  coast  climate  meant  to  a  Euro- 
pean, in  the  waste  of  strength  and  the  deadly  sap  of  health  and 
energy.  Even  without  exertion,  the  strength  of  the  body 
seemed  to  be  hourly  melting  out  of  the  system.  It  was  now 
the  end  of  October.  Two  entire  months  must  elapse  before 
white  troops  could  arrive  on  the  coast  from  England.  Would 
we  last  over  that  interval  ?  Of  all  the  strange  things  in  life 
human  hope  is  the  strangest.  No  matter  how  dark  it  may  be 
on  this  side  of  the  hiU,  the  other  side  generally  gets  the  credit 
of  sunshine.  If  life  is  reaUy  a  vale  of  tears,  there  are  bursts 
of  laughter  coming  through  the  sobs  from  some  imaginary 
upper  glen. 

Work  in  a  new  region  now  opened  for  me.  In  a  kingdom 
called  Akim,  some  hundred  or  hundred  and  fifty  miles  north- 
east from  Cape  Coast  Castle,  there  reigned  two  kings — Cobina 
Fuah  and  Coffee  Ahencora,  both  of  whom  were  supposed  to  be 
of  better  fighting  quality  than  the  sable  monarchs  dwelling 
near  the  coast. 

A  commission  to  these  Akim  sovereigns  was  duly  given  to 
me,  and  I  was  directed  to  proceed  '  in  one  of  Her  Majesty's 
men-of-war  to  Accra,  as  a  special  Commissioner  to  the  king 
and  queen  and  chiefs  of  that  district,  in  order  to  raise  the 
whole  of  the  fighting  men  in  Western  Akim  for  the  purpose  of 
closing  in  Amonquatier's  army  as  it  is  endeavouring  to  re-cross 


154     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

the  river  Prah  into  Ashanti.  ...  It  is  impossible/  went  on 
the  words  of  the  Commission,  '  to  give  jou  more  precise  instruc- 
tions, and  there  is  nothing  to  add  further  than  that  the  major- 
general  relies  upon  your  zeal  and  discretion,  and  on  your  know- 
ledge of  barbarous  people,  to  carry  out  quickly  the  objects  of 
this  most  important  mission  which  has  been  confided  to  you.' 

My  Commission  bore  date  2nd  November,  and  by  the  evening 
of  the  3rd  I  had  got  together  a  dozen  Snyder  rifles,  two  Union 
Jacks,  a  few  servants,  ammunition,  a  bag  of  a  hundred  gold 
pieces,  some  AustraUan  turned  meats,  and  a  lot  of  proclama- 
tions and  addresses  to  black  kings  and  queens  in  general,  but 
particularly  to  the  potentates  reigning  in  the  regions  lying 
behind  the  coast  at  Accra.  By  dint  of  hard  labour  everything 
was  ready  for  embarkation,  and  I  got  on  board  the  gunboat 
Decoy  late  in  the  afternoon.  Steam  was  already  up,  and  we 
were  soon  rolling  along  to  the  eastward,  pitching  and  tossing 
from  one  side  to  the  other  m  those  gigantic  waves  which  never 
cease  to  roll,  night  and  day,  against  the  shores  of  tropic  Africa. 
We  rocked  all  night  in  the  cradle  of  the  deep,  and  at  daybreak 
were  off  Accra.  Another  big  slave  castle  was  here,  and  the 
huge  bastions  of  yet  another  prison  could  be  seen  three  miles 
deeper  in  the  Bight,  at  Christianburg.  The  last  ghmpse  seen  of 
the  shore  after  sunset  on  the  previous  evening  had  been  of  slave 
castles  ;  the  first  sight  in  the  morning  was  of  slave  castles  ; 
and  round  that  fatal  coast-line,  between  the  feverish  forest  and 
the  yellow  sand,  they  stand,  now  lonely  and  mitenanted,  with 
rusty  gates  and  empty  vaults,  the  mouldering  monuments  of 
two  centuries  of  a  gigantic  mjustice. 

I  got  on  shore  as  quickly  as  possible,  for  the  night  had  been 
one  of  sleepless  torment.  Here  at  Accra  the  debasement  of 
the  negro  seemed  to  be  even  greater  than  at  Cape  Coast  Castle. 
A  great  '  Custom  '  was  going  on  to  celebrate  the  movement  of 
Captain  Glover's  native  force  from  Accra  to  Addah,  at  the 
mouth  of  the  Volta.  '  Dashes  '  of  rum  and  gunpowder  had 
been  plentiful  for  days  earlier,  and  the  result  was  to  be 
seen  in  men  lying  on  their  backs  along  the  foul  sea-front, 
firing  guns  into  the  air,  turning  head  over  heels,  and  firing 
as  they  turned,  and  uttering  a  strange  mixture  of  Coast- 
Enghsh  curses  and  invocations  to  some  forest  fetich  for  fortune 
in  their  coming  campaign. 


THE  MARCH  TO  ASHANTI  BEGINS  155 

All  that  day  and  the  next  day  I  spent  m  Accra,  endeavouring 
to  evolve  out  of  this  hideous  scene  of  naked  and  unabashed 
negro  animalism  the  semblance  of  a  sober  convoy  for  my  inland 
journey  to  Akim.  Night  came,  but  no  convoy.  The  gun-firing 
might  have  been  less  than  on  the  first  day  ;  but  the  drunk- 
enness did  not  appear  to  have  diminished.  I  had,  however, 
the  satisfaction  on  the  first  day  of  making  the  acquaintance 
of  one  of  the  most  remarkable  among  the  many  remarkable 
persons  to  whose  efforts  are  due  the  estabUshment  of  our 
Empire  in  Africa — Captain  Glover,  R.N.  He  had  spent  many 
years  on  the  shores  of  the  Bight  of  Benm.  To  him  more  than 
to  any  other  man  belongs  by  right  the  merit  of  being  the  first 
to  discover  the  value  of  the  trade  which  lay  at  the  back  of  this 
equatorial  coast  forest,  behind  the  kingdoms  of  Ashanti, 
Dahomey,  and  Benin.  Forty  years  from  the  present  time. 
Glover,  as  governor  and  maker  of  Lagos,  had  alreadj^  foreseen 
the  possibilities  of  forming  a  British  possession  which  would 
embrace  the  countries  of  the  Niger  from  its  source  to  the  sea. 
He  was  before  his  time.  That  great  region  has  now  many 
claimants  for  its  possession,  and  it  is  still  a  matter  of  doubt 
in  what  direction  its  trade  will  eventually  seek  its  outlet. 

On  the  evening  of  the  5th  November  I  got  away  from  Accra 
with  a  very  motley  crowd  of  carriers,  the  greater  part  of  whom 
were  still  under  the  influence  of  the  '  Custom.'  I  have  not  space 
to  tell  in  any  detail  of  the  march  from  Accra  to  the  Akim 
Prah.  On  the  second  day  I  had  marched  my  men  into  a 
state  of  semi-sobriety  ;  but  new  difficulties  arose.  My  kings, 
Fuah  and  Ahencora,  had  heard  of  the  largesse  distributed  by 
Captain  Glover  at  Accra,  and  they  had  both  set  out  from 
Akim  to  share  in  these  wonderful  '  dashes,'  which,  no  doubt, 
rumour  had  magnified  to  them.  Two  days  from  Accra  I 
met  King  Fuah  moving  in  all  the  pomp  of  negro  buffoonery 
towards  the  coast.  It  was  a  repetition  of  Pollard's  army, 
with  variations  —  sword  and  pipe  bearers,  horn  blowers, 
umbrella  men,  skull  mace-bearers,  litter-carriers,  three  of  the 
king's  wives,  bodyguards,  and  at  last  King  Fuah  himself.  We 
had  been  exchanging  messengers  for  three  days  :  he  beseeching 
me  to  await  his  arrival  at  Accra  ;  I  sending  emissaries  to  tell 
him  that  he  must  return  to  his  own  country,  whither  I  was 
coming  ;  that  he  was  turning  his  back  upon  the  Ashanti  enemy  ; 


156    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

that  there  were  only  old  women  left  at  Accra,  and  that  it  was  m 
his  own  kingdom  of  Akim  that  I  would  bestow  upon  him  the 
gifts,  arms,  and  '  dashes,'  which  I  was  commissioned  to  give 
him  by  the  general-in-chief  at  Cape  Coast  Castle.  AU  to  no  pur- 
pose. So  now  we  met  at  a  place  called  Edoocfoo,  three  marches 
from  Accra.  I  was  in  no  frame  of  mind  to  brook  delay  in 
opening  this  palaver.  I  told  King  Fuah  exactly  the  state  of 
afifairs  :  Captain  Glover  was  not  the  commander  of  this  expedi- 
tion, neither  was  he  the  head  dispenser  or  '  dash  '-giver  of  all 
the  good  things  of  negro  life  ;  I  read  and  explained  Sir  Garnet 
Wolseley's  letter  ;  I  told  Cobina  of  Akim  the  exact  position 
of  affairs,  now  that  the  Ashantis,  broken  and  disheartened,  were 
retreating  on  the  Prah,  offering  to  him  the  precious  opportunity 
of  striking  them  in  flank  and  destroying  them,  if  he  would  now 
return  with  me  to  his  kingdom,  get  out  his  fighting  men,  and 
move  with  me  against  his  ancient  enemy,  at  whose  hands  he 
had  suffered  so  many  injuries  in  this  and  other  wars.  All  was 
useless.  To  Accra  he  must  go,  for  it  was  there  that  fetish 
should  be  done,  and  '  Custom  '  carried  out.  I  tried  manj'' 
things  with  this  obstinate  Akim.  I  '  dashed  '  him  six  Snyder 
rifles,  ammunition,  wine,  as  an  earnest  of  what  things  would 
be  his  if  he  did  as  the  English  general  wished  him  to  do.  I 
tried  first  to  work  on  his  greed,  then  on  his  greedmess,  and 
finally  upon  his  sense  of  shame.  He  had  had  a  good  name  in 
Cape  Coast  Castle,  would  he  add  to  it  by  coming  back  with 
me,  or  destroy  it  by  running  away  to  Accra  where  there  were 
only  women  and  cowards  left  ?  '  TeU  him,'  I  said  to  the 
interpreter,  '  that  I  can  never  go  back  :  I  must  go  forward. 
If  he  returns  with  me  now  he  will  become  the  greatest  king 
that  ever  reigned  in  Akim  ;  if  he  goes  on  to  the  coast  he  will 
cover  himself  with  disgrace  and  his  name  wiU  be  a  byword.' 
No  use.     To  Accra  he  must  go.     So  we  parted. 

Weary  beyond  words,  I  set  my  face  to  the  north,  and  plodded 
on  to  the  next  miserable  croom.  This  was  West  Coast  war  ; 
these  were  the  poor,  down-trodden  people  we  had  come  to 
give  our  lives  for.  I  positively  laughed  as  the  full  absurdity 
of  the  position  forced  itself  upon  me.  In  the  evening  I  reached 
a  town  called  Koniako,  where  dwelt  an  old  chief  named 
Quassiquadaddie,  in  whose  house  I  stopped  the  night.  It 
was  clean  and  comfortable,  with  walls  neatly  plastered,  and  a 


HALTED  157 

good  four-posted  bed  in  an  inner  room — the  best  habitation 
I  saw  on  the  coast  outside  the  towns.  Quassiquadaddie  did 
the  honours  admirably,  and,  what  was  of  more  importance, 
he  was  full  of  valuable  information  of  route  and  distance. 
Another  day's  march  brought  me  to  Eniacroom,  where  my 
second  long,  Coffee  Ahencora,  was  awaiting  me.  He  too  was 
bound  for  '  Custom  '  to  Accra,  but  my  messengers  had  stopped 
him.  After  another  long  palaver  I  succeeded  in  effecting  a 
change  of  purpose,  largely  due  to  my  being  able  to  pit  his 
prospects  if  he  went  back  to  the  Prah  with  me  against  those 
of  his  rival  monarch  Fuah  who  had  disregarded  mj  wishes  and 
continued  his  course  to  the  coast.  But  he  would  do  nothing 
in  a  hurry,  and  in  this  matter  of  getting  a  slap  at  the  Ashantis 
before  they  crossed  the  Prah,  hurry  was  the  whole  essence  of 
the  problem.  I  was  marching  two,  perhaps  three,  miles  to 
their  one. 

Here  at  Eniacroom  I  had  to  wait  two  whole  days  while 
this  second  king  was  making  up  his  mind,  with  the  aid  of  a 
score  of  counsellors,  as  to  what  he  would  do.  The  heat 
was  intense  all  this  time.  The  women  of  the  town  came  to 
stare  at  me  in  great  numbers  :  all  day  while  light  lasted  they 
flocked  round  my  hut,  looked  through  windows,  round  comers, 
and  along  the  tops  of  mud  walls.  Although  the  feeling  of  being 
constantly  stared  at  is  not  a  pleasant  one,  there  were  circum- 
stances in  this  case  which  made  it  less  irksome  than  it  might 
have  been.  With  the  exception  of  the  very  young  girls  and 
the  old  women,  the  majority  of  the  ladies  had  babies  with 
them  ;  these  they  carried  seated  astride  on  a  sort  of  bustle 
held  to  the  small  of  the  back  by  a  thin  piece  of  cotton  cloth. 
The  manner  in  which  these  little  black  babies  kept  looking 
round  their  mothers'  backs,  and  groping  with  tiny  fingers  for 
the  maternal  bosom  in  front,  was  very  comical  ;  and  one 
marvelled  at  the  exceeding  patience  with  which  the  mother 
bore  the  constant  importunities  of  her  offspring.  But  patience 
is  the  everlasting  lesson  of  Africa.  '  What  patience  is  required 
in  this  African  travel ! '  I  find  myself  writing  on  this  day,  1 1th 
November.  The  king  came  to  see  me  frequently.  He  would 
return  with  me  to  his  town,  Akim-Swaidroo  ;  but  he  had  to 
settle  a  dispute  with  a  neighbouring  chief  on  the  waj'^  :  would 
I   act   as   arbitrator   in   the   matter  ?     WTiat  was   it   about  ? 


158     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

About  a  goat.  The  oath  of  friendship  which  this  chief  had 
sworn  to  him  had  not  been  sealed  by  the  killing  of  a  goat  :  the 
omission  of  this  sacrificial  rite  was  the  cause  of  the  dispute. 
What  was  my  opinion  ?  I  replied  that  the  matter  was  of  such 
importance  as  to  render  its  postponement  until  after  the  ter- 
mination of  the  war  imperative.  This  view  did  not  seem  to 
suit  the  king  or  his  comicil  ;  and  they  aU  began  a  laboured 
exposition  of  the  question  at  issue,  ending  by  again  urging 
that  I  would  use  my  influence  to  bring  the  recalcitrant  chief 
to  a  sense  of  his  transgression.  WTiile  still  adhering  to  the 
necessity  of  postponing  the  case,  I  indulged  in  some  observa- 
tions upon  goats  in  general ;  I  further  remarked  that  they  were 
perfectly  distinct  and  different  from  sheep,  and  this  being  the 
case,  I  thought  that  mutual  concessions  would  best  advance 
the  interest  of  all  parties.  When  the  interpreter  had  got  these 
profound  opinions  into  their  Akim  equivalents,  I  was  astonished 
to  observe  an  expression  of  agreement  on  the  faces  of  the 
king  and  his  counsellors.  They  uttered  a  kind  of  prolonged 
*  Hah,'  which  I  read  as  a  sort  of  *  I  told  you  so.'  They  would 
start,  they  said,  to-morrow.  Night  came  at  last  to  end  the 
visits  and  the  begging,  and  to  hide  the  black  faces  at  windows 
and  doorways,  corners  and  chinks  ;  and  I  lay  down  to  sleep 
with  the  prospect  of  a  start  next  morning.  But  there  was 
one  thing  the  night  could  not  hide  :  that  these  past  twenty  days 
of  toil  had  told  terribly  on  my  health  and  strength.  The 
desire  for  food  had  grown  less  and  less  ;  a  lassitude  never  felt 
before  had  come  upon  me  ;  sleep  brought  with  it  no  sense  of 
rest  or  refreshment. 

At  last  I  got  away  from  Eniacroom.  The  king  and  his 
retainers  were  also  on  the  road.  The  march  was  only  one  of 
eight  miles,  but  it  taxed  all  my  strength  to  accomplish  it. 
The  path  was  deep  in  mud,  and  the  hammock  could  not  make 
way  among  the  crowded  and  tangled  trees,  so  I  went  on  on 
foot.  A  raging  thirst  consumed  me,  and  whenever  we  reached 
running  water  I  had  to  drink  deeply.  What,  I  asked  myself, 
was  this  strange,  dry  feeling  ?  Only  some  passing  ailment,  I 
thought  :  I  will  walk  faster  and  shake  it  off.  We  were  now  in 
a  forest  of  prodigiously  large  trees,  matted  imdemeath  with 
tendrils  and  creeping  plants.  Those  giant  trees  seemed  as 
endless  pillars  on  an  endless  road.     I  reached  another  croom, 


SPLENDID  BEARING  OF  OUR  OFFICERS       159 

and  sat  down  in  a  porch  while  a  hut  was  being  prepared.  The 
dry  heat  of  the  skin  grew  drier  ;  the  thirst  became  more 
incessant ;  then  came  a  pain  that  seemed  to  be  everywhere 
at  once — the  dull,  dead,  sick  pain  of  African  fever. 

Hitherto  I  have  written  in  detail  of  the  Ashanti  War  of 
1873  through  the  first  three  or  four  weeks  of  my  personal 
experience  of  it.  I  have  done  so  because  I  wished  to  put  before 
the  reader  a  picture  of  life  with  the  real  negro  at  home.  I 
thought  also  that  the  narrative  might  be  of  use  as  showing 
these  little  wars,  which  have  been  so  frequent  in  our  history 
during  the  past  fifty  or  sixty  years,  in  comparison  with  the  big 
wars  of  earUer  days,  the  wars  which  OtheUo  thought  '  made 
ambition  virtue.'  These  old  wars  seem  to  me  to  bear  the  same 
relation  to  our  modern  wars — opium  wars,  colonial  wars,  which 
might  fitly  be  called  '  sutlers'  '  wars — as  the  glory  of  an  old 
EngUsh  cathedral  of  Plantagenet  times  compares  with  the 
meanness  of  houses  and  shops  that  are  grouped  around  its  base. 

This  Ashanti  War  of  1873-74^  has  been  forgotten  long  ago. 
Pestilence  kiUed  ten  men  for  every  one  knocked  over  by  a 
bullet.  Now,  when  more  than  thirty  years  have  passed,  I 
look  back  on  all  the  toil  and  sweat  and  sickness  of  that  time, 
and  the  picture  I  see  is  a  sad  but  splendid  one — men,  the  best 
I  ever  met  with  in  my  long  service,  toiling  on,  despite  of  fever 
and  dysenter}^  over  narrow  forest  paths  ;  some  of  them  worn 
to  skeletons,  all  with  drawn,  haggard  features  ;  down  with 
fever  one  day,  staggering  along  the  dark  path  the  next  day  ; 
eating  wretched  food  ;  fighting,  urging,  wrestling  with  recalci- 
trant carriers  ;  streaming  with  perspiration  at  aU  times  ;  yet 
always  putting  a  good  face  upon  the  worst  ills  that  fortune 
sent  them. 

And,  fixed  as  that  picture  of  the  human  factor,  I  see  another 
memory — that  great,  gloomy  forest ;  these  endless  arches  of 
colossal  cotton  trees,  under  which  two  other  growths  of  forest 
flourish,  the  lower  one  a  mass  of  tangled  and  twisted  ever- 
greens, the  middle  one  hung  with  spiral  creepers  hke  huge 
serpents  hundreds  of  feet  in  length.  Below  aU  there  is  the 
hot,  wet  earth  emitting  foul  odours  from  its  black  mud-holes, 
and  many  pools  of  slime-covered  water.  There  is  dense  fog  in 
the  early  mornings — a  '  thick  smoke '  the  natives  caUed  it — fierce 
sun  on  the  lofty  tree-tops  at  midday  ;   but  only  in  fretted 


160    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

patches  can  the  hot  rays  reach  the  ground  through  these  great 
trees,  of  which  the  trunks  run  up  one  hundred  feet  without  a 
branch,  and  then  spread  forth  for  another  hundred  feet  into 
massive  limbs,  every  one  sulBficient  to  make  a  forest  tree. 
Evening.  A  splash  of  water  upon  aU  the  land  ;  rain  pours 
upon  the  big  leaves  m  ceaseless  torrents,  and  the  roll  of  thunder 
crashes  loud  and  long  over  the  echomg  forest  depths.  So 
closely  does  the  forest  hem  in  the  crooms  that  if  one  could 
walk  along  its  upper  surface,  one  would  look  right  down  into 
the  little  clusters  of  mud  and  wattle  huts  which  form  the 
village  homes. 

In  this  forest  and  in  these  crooms  I  now  spent  three  very 
long  months,  the  longest  I  ever  remember.  During  November, 
December,  and  January  I  marched  about  nine  hundred  miles — 
every  day  with  a  little  more  difficulty.  Not  a  week  went  by 
but  my  bout  of  fever  came.  Sometimes  it  would  last  two 
days,  sometimes  only  a  night ;  but  always  one  rose  from  the 
wretched  bed  on  the  earthen  floor  a  little  weaker  and  thinner, 
until  at  last  the  bones  seemed  all  that  was  left  of  the  body. 
Long  before  the  campaign  was  over  I  was  able  to  join  the 
ends  of  thumb  and  forefinger  and  run  the  loop  thus  made  from 
wrist  to  elbow,  and  from  elbow  to  shoulder,  without  having 
to  open  the  circlet.  The  body  wasted  in  a  similar  proportion. 
How  I  was  able  to  walk  was  often  a  subject  of  wonder  to  me. 
A  year  earlier  I  had  been  doing  twenty  and  thirty  mile  marches 
daily  on  snow-shoes,  with  dogs,  along  the  frozen  Peace  River  ; 
and  as  then  I  had  attributed  hardiness  m  the  cold  largely  to  the 
fact  that  I  had  bathed  in  the  open  sea  during  a  previous  winter, 
so  now  I  believed  I  was  able  to  walk  this  tropic  forest,  not- 
withstanding a  state  of  extreme  emaciation,  because  that 
fifteen  hundred  mile  tramp  in  the  snow  had  habituated  my 
legs  to  marching. 

Of  this  fever,  which  began,  as  I  have  said,  on  the  march 
from  Eniacroom  to  Dobbin,  I  must  say  something.  I  can 
never  forget  that  first  attack.  For  three  days  and  nights  I 
lay  in  the  corner  of  a  very  small  hut  on  a  door  with  two  logs 
of  wood  under  it  and  a  blanket  spread  over  it.  I  drank  in- 
cessantly, and  was  always  thirsty.  The  fingers  seemed  to  be 
lighted  candle  ends  ;  the  throat  was  parched  ;  the  mouth  was 
fiUed  with  an  odious  taste  ;   every  bone  and  joint  ached  ;    the 


IN  THE  GRIP  OF  THE  FEVER  161 

head  reeled  with  a  sickness  worse  than  that  of  a  rough  sea  ; 
when  sleep  came,  it  brought  terrible  visions,  so  that  one  would 
say  on  waking,  '  I  must  not  go  to  sleep  again/  I  had,  of  course, 
no  doctor,  and  but  one  or  two  medicines.  I  swallowed  large 
doses  of  quinine — twenty  grains  at  a  time.  WTien  the  night 
grew  still,  and  the  incessant  noises  of  the  negroes'  daily  village 
life  ceased,  loathsome  things  came  out  from  the  mud  walls  and 
thatched  roof  and  prowled  about  my  room.  A  large  black  rat 
ran  several  times  across  my  door-bed  as  I  lay  tossing  upon  it  in 
sleepless  pain. 

On  the  morning  succeeding  the  third  night  of  this  misery 
some  lightening  of  the  fever  must  have  come  :  I  was  in  a  pro- 
fuse perspiration,  terribly  weak,  but  could  breathe  more  freely. 
The  idea  of  escape  from  this  foul  sick-room  came  to  me.  If 
I  could  only  get  out  of  this  horrible  place  I  should  be  better  ; 
and  if  I  did  not  get  better,  the  big  forest  would  be  a  fitter 
place  to  die  in  than  this  hateful  hole.  There  was  not  a  soul 
to  speak  to  ;  the  candle,  stuck  in  a  bottle,  had  died  out ;  the 
night  was  wearing  towards  daybreak  ;  that  strange  little  animal 
of  the  sloth  species,  which  gives  out  a  series  of  terrible  shrieks 
as  the  dawn  is  drawing  near  on  the  Coast,  was  already  sending 
his  dismal  howls  through  the  forest.  I  got  off  the  bed  and 
staggered  to  the  hut  window.  Day  was  breaking  ;  the  croom 
and  the  forest  were  wrapped  in  fog,  but,  above,  the  stars  could 
be  seen.  I  was  horriblj''  weak,  for  no  food  had  passed  my  lips 
during  three  days.  The  cool  air  seemed  to  revive  me,  and  I 
felt  that  I  must  tear  myself  out  of  the  grasp  of  this  fever.  I 
called  my  servant  ;  he  roused  the  hammock  men  ;  for  the 
first  time  they  were  ready,  and  I  was  carried  out  of  the  still 
sleeping  village  before  daylight  had  fully  come.  For  ten  days 
following  this  day  the  routine  was  the  same  :  night  usually 
brought  a  return  of  the  fever — more  quinine,  more  perspiration; 
in  the  morning  less  fever  and  less  strength. 

King  Ahencora,  finding  that  I  had  left  Dobbin  and 
was  making  for  his  capital  of  Swaidroo,  set  out  at  once 
after  me.  AATien  I  reached  Swaidroo  I  was  scarcely  able 
to  stand  ;  but  my  brain  was  clear  enough  to  reahse  that 
this  so-called  city  of  a  strong  king  was  just  like  a  score  of 
other  crooms  through  which  I  had  passed  ;  that  the  Akims 
were  exactly  as  all  the  other  tribes — Assins,  Denkeras,  Arbias, 

L 


162    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Accras,   and  Agoouahs  had  been — a  hopeless  lot  of   craven 
beggars. 

I  must  run  quickly  through  the  crowded  events  of  the  next 
three  months.  After  twenty  days  of  travel,  palavers,  toil, 
and  fever  I  reached  the  Prah  at  Prahsu  with  a  following  of 
one  chief,  three  scouts,  and  twenty-six  Akim  soldiers.  This 
was  the  total  muster  which  had  rallied  to  my  call  !  My  first 
king  was  still  doing  fetish  at  Accra  ;  my  second  monarch  had 
reported  himself  very  lame  that  morning  from  a  place  twenty 
miles  to  the  rear. 

The  last  six  miles  of  the  paths  to  the  Prah  presented  a  very 
gruesome  appearance  ;  dead  bodies  lay  along  it  in  advanced 
stages  of  decomposition  ;  the  stench  was  horrible  ;  and  every- 
thing betokened  the  stricken  state  in  which  the  Ashanti  army 
had  crossed  the  sacred  river,  the  banks  of  which  I  was  the  first 
white  man  to  reach. 

The  first  phase  of  the  war  was  now  over  ;  the  next  would 
open  with  the  invasion  of  Ashanti  when  the  British  tro®ps 
had  arrived  at  the  Coast. 

The  plan  of  invasion  was  as  follows  : — the  entire  English 
force  was  to  move  along  the  main  road  to  Prahsu,  cross  the 
river,  and  advance  straight  upon  Coomassie.  I  was  again 
instructed  to  visit  Akim,  collect  as  many  men  as  I  could 
gather  in  that  kingdom,  cross  the  Prah  at  a  place  some  thirty 
miles  higher  up  stream,  and  invade  Ashanti  on  my  own 
account.  Thirty  miles  still  farther  to  my  right.  Captain 
Glover  was  to  lead  all  the  Volta  natives  he  could  collect  together, 
with  nine  hundred  or  a  thousand  disciplined  Houssas,  into 
Ashanti.  The  date  for  this  simultaneous  crossmg  of  the 
frontier  was  fixed  for  the  15th  January.  I  did  not  get  back 
to  West  Akim  until  the  23rd  December,  so  that  I  had  three 
weeks  in  which  to  prepare,  collect,  organise,  arm,  and  equip  this 
new  expedition.  It  would  be  impossible  now  to  go  over  again 
these  three  weeks'  work.  It  will  suffice  to  say  that  I  reached 
the  Prah  at  a  place  called  Beronassie  on  13th  January,  to  find 
a  following  of  about  one  hundred  Akims,  and  with  a  pulse 
beating  at  about  the  same  figure.  A  bad  night  of  fever  fol- 
lowed the  long,  hot  march  over  a  rugged  track,  filled  in  many 
places  with  stagnant  water,  and  crossed  by  roots  of  trees  laid 
bare  by  rain  torrents.     Again  came  the  old  routine  of  the 


THE  FRONTIER  CROSSED  163 

night,  now  so  familiar — the  wakeful  hours,  the  sickness,  the 
wet  fog,  the  dayhght,  the  lightening  of  the  fever.  As  I  lay- 
in  the  languor  of  the  next  day,  messages  came  from  Fuah 
and  Ahencora,  from  Darco  and  other  chiefs,  all  secretly  de- 
hghted  that  the  white  man  was  down  again  ;  and  that  three 
other  English  officers,  who  had  just  arrived  from  the  main  road 
to  assist  in  this  new  expedition,  were  also  lying,  some  ten 
miles  back  on  the  road  I  had  come,  prostrate  with  fever. 
'  Surely  I  will  delay  the  crossing  of  the  Prah,'  they  urge.  '  No, 
the  orders  are  the  15th.'  On  the  15th  I  was  able  to  move 
again,  and  I  set  out  for  the  Prah — three  miles.  I  found  an 
advanced  guard  of  some  fifty  Akims  on  the  near  bank  of  the 
river.  '  Move  your  men  across,'  I  said  to  the  chief  in  com- 
mand, '  and  make  camp  on  the  Ashanti  shore.'  '  They  could 
not  cross,'  he  said,  '  they  were  too  few ;  the  Ashanti  fetish 
held  the  river  ;  they  must  wait  until  more  men  had  come 
up.'  *  Then  we  shall  cross  alone,'  I  said.  '  It  is  the  day  named 
by  the  English  general  :  his  orders  must  be  obeyed.'  Two  of 
the  three  sick  officers  had  arrived  that  morning.  We  rested 
a  while  in  the  Akim  camp  ;  then  I  told  the  policemen  to  carry 
a  few  loads  down  to  the  edge  of  the  ford.  There  was  a  ridge 
of  sand  in  the  centre  of  the  river,  and  beyond  it  the  current 
ran  deep  and  strong.  We  waded  to  the  sand  island  ;  then 
divesting  ourselves  of  clothes,  we  took  the  deeper  water. 
In  the  centre  it  rose  to  our  lips  ;  then  we  just  touched  bottom, 
caught  the  outlying  branches  of  a  fallen  tree,  and  climbing 
through  them,  got  to  the  farther  shore.  It  was  midday.  Not 
a  sound  stirred  in  the  great  forest.  The  Akims  stood  in 
groups  on  the  south  shore  gazing  at  the  white  man's  doings. 
The  sight  was  certainly  a  curious  one  :  three  white  men  and 
six  native  policemen  carrying  baggage  had  invaded  Ashanti. 


CHAPTER    XI 

An  excuse  for  the  craven  native.  End  of  the  expedition.  Near  death  from 
fever.  Queen  Victoria's  visit  to  Netley.  Companion  of  the  Bath.  Start 
for  Natal.  With  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley  again.  Protector  of  Indian 
immigrants.     The  Tugela.     Through  the  Orange  Free  State. 

As  these  days  now  come  back  iii  recollection,  I  could  easily 
write  a  volume  about  them.  Their  strangeness  has  grown 
stranger  to  me.  It  is  all  thirty-five  years  ago,  and  a  thousand 
other  scenes  have  crossed  the  looking-glass  since  then,  and  yet 
in  that  infinite  wonder,  the  mirror  of  memory,  I  seem  to  see 
it  all  to-day  perhaps  even  in  truer  perspective  than  I  was  able 
to  see  it  in  then. 

Looking  back  now  upon  that  big  forest,  with  its  days  of 
disappointment,  its  nights  of  sickness,  its  toilings  under  those 
gloomy  green  arches,  the  endless  vistas  of  that  gigantic  laby- 
rinth of  trees,  the  horrible  brain-pictures  that  grew  in  the  long, 
dark  hours  when  the  brain  still  saw  after  the  eyes  closed,  I  can 
perceive  things  that  I  did  not  discern  then.  I  see  much  that 
was  good  and  human  in  these  poor  black  savages — true  and 
faithful  service,  patience,  honesty,  strange  childlike  accepta- 
tion, doglike  fidelity.  These  traits  were  common  among  them, 
the  lower  ranks  possessing  a  hundred  times  more  of  them  than 
the  upper  ones.  After  all,  we  were  expecting  too  much  from 
these  Coast  negroes.  Firstly,  we  expected  they  would  accept 
as  truth  everything  we  told  them  ;  but  why  should  they  ? 
For  three  or  four  hundred  years  the  white  man  had  robbed, 
tricked,  and  enslaved  them  ;  had  dragged  them  m  hundreds 
of  thousands  from  their  homes,  crowded  them  into  foul  ships, 
lied  to  them,  lashed  them,  cheated  them  in  trade.  What 
reason  was  there  now  that  they  should  thmk  honest,  truthful 
men  had  all  at  once  come  amongst  them,  whose  words  they 
were  to  believe  at  the  first  sound  ?  I  once  asked  the  best  and 
most  truthful  negro  I  met  on  the  Coast  this  question,  *  When 
a  white  man  speaks  to  a  black  one,  what  does  the  black  man 

164 


OUR  DEALINGS  WITH  THE  NATIVE  165 

think  of  what  he  is  told  ?  Does  he  believe  it  ?  '  '  No,'  was 
the  prompt  reply,  '  he  thinks  every  word  the  white  man  says 
is  a  lie.'  Secondl}',  we  expected  to  find  among  them  the 
habits  of  punctuality,  obedience  to  command,  order,  and  even 
discipline,  which  wc  had  been  accustomed  to  find  at  home  ; 
but  surely  this  was  wrong.  It  was  our  drink,  our  trade,  our 
greed,  which  had  hopelessly  demoraHsed  the  native  African. 
We  wrung  our  wealth  out  of  his  sweat  ;  we  drugged  him  with 
our  drink  ;  we  shot  him  with  our  guns  ;  we  sold  him  powder 
and  lead,  so  that  he  might  shoot  and  enslave  his  fellow-black. 
These  castles  along  his  Coast  were  the  monuments  of  our 
savage  injustice  to  him. 

Thirdly,  we  were  wrathful  with  the  tribes  of  the  Coast 
because  they  did  not  at  once  turn  out  and  fight  the  Ashanti  at 
our  bidding.  In  this,  too,  we  were  looking  for  more  than  we 
had  a  right  to  expect.  WTien  the  Ashantis  had  come  down 
upon  the  tribes  six  months  earlier,  the  help  we  had  been 
able  to  give  these  tribes  against  their  enemies  was  of  the  feeblest 
sort.  In  that  invasion  they  had  suffered  almost  everything  that 
they  could  suffer  ;  thousands  had  been  killed,  all  the  villages 
had  been  destroyed,  the  fetish  trees  cut  down.  '  The  way- 
side,' says  one  very  accurate  writer,^  '  was  littered  with  corpses, 
with  the  dj^ing,  with  women  bringing  forth  children.'  AU  the 
tribes  knew  this,  even  those  whom  the  tide  of  devastation  had 
not  reached.  Why  then  should  they  have  rushed  at  our  bid- 
ding again  into  a  fray  which  had  already  proved  so  disastrous 
to  them  ?  It  is  a  peculiarity  with  many  of  our  people  that 
they  do  not  know  how  much  they  do  not  know.  There  is 
nothing  in  a  land  before  thej^  came  there.  History  began  when 
the  first  Enghsh  traders  arrived.  Before  that  event  there  was  a 
blank.  The  erection  of  Smith's  shop  marks  the  year  one.  This 
method  of  thinking  is  not  confijied  to  traders.  I  remember  a 
very-  high  civil  authority  at  the  War  Office  once  remarking  to 
a  military  officer  whose  business  it  was  to  take  daily  to  him  a 
map  showing  the  progress  of  our  troops  in  war  against  the 
Zulus,  *  Dear  me  !  what  a  lot  of  geography  these  wars  teach 
one.'  It  is  a  little  late  to  begin  the  acquisition  of  that  know- 
ledge when  the  fighting  has  begun.  But  we  must  finish  our 
story. 

^  Winwood  Reailc. 


166    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Little  by  little,  in  the  days  following  our  unique  passage  of 
the  Prah,  I  succeeded  in  getting  an  increasing  number  of 
Akims  over  the  river  and  inducing  them  to  go  forward  with 
me  into  Ashanti.  By  22nd  January  we  were  at  Yancoma, 
a  place  about  twenty  miles  across  the  frontier.  No  enemy  had 
been  seen,  but  traces  of  scouts  were  here  met  with.  From  this 
place  two  paths  led  towards  Coomassie  :  we  followed  that 
which  went  by  Ennoonsu  to  Akim  and  Cocofoo.  It  seems  a 
marvel  to  me  now  how  we  got  the  Akims  along.  Their  numbers 
had  increased  to  over  one  thousand,  and  more  men  were  coming 
in.  Many  of  the  men  and  a  few  of  the  chiefs  were  of  good 
stuff  and  spirit,  but  the  kings  and  leading  men  were  in  a  state 
of  fear  that  was  often  comical  to  look  at.  It  was  this  element 
of  comicality  in  the  black  man  which  was  the  saving  clause  in 
all  the  long  chapter  of  fever,  fiasco,  and  apparently  fruitless 
effort  which  had  bj^  this  time  reduced  my  body  to  the  condition 
of  a  walking  skeleton.  I  was  certainly  the  one  officer  on  the 
Coast  who  had  dwelt  wholly  and  entirely  among  the  natives. 
For  three  months  I  had  literally  lived  alone  with  them  ;  the 
ways  of  their  daily  lives  had  become  familiar  to  me.  As  the 
body  of  the  African  is  almost  destitute  of  clothing,  so  is  his 
mmd  an  open  one  ;  he  has  few  concealments,  physical  or 
mental.  You  think,  perhaps,  that  only  in  civilised  communi- 
ties is  the  study  of  human  nature  possible,  but  it  is  not  so. 
Africa  is  the  real  bed-rock  school  of  that  stud3^  CiviUsation, 
even  at  its  best,  has  often  to  curb  itself  in  order  to  keep  its 
clothes  on.  The  African  has  not  to  write  a  novel  when  he  wants 
to  take  them  off.  The  negroes  say  that  Adam  and  Eve  and 
their  children  were  aU  black,  and  that  Cain  only  turned  white 
through  fear  after  he  had  killed  Abel  and  when  he  found  that 
he  could  not  hide  the  dead  body  of  his  brother.  I  do  not 
pretend  to  decide  the  question,  but  it  is  significant  that  the 
black  man  to-day  does  not  build  cities,  nor,  if  he  can  help  it, 
does  he  like  to  live  in  them.  I  have  an  idea  that  he  will  exist 
on  the  earth  a  very  long  time. 

We  got  to  the  Ennoon  River,  had  a  skirmish  there  on  25th 
January,  in  which  the  enemj''  was  routed  and  some  heads 
taken  by  the  Akims.  After  another  delay  there  of  two  dsuys  I 
managed  to  get  the  kings,  lords,  and  commons  of  Akim,  now 
numbering  fourteen  hundred  men,  forward  on  another  day's 


IN  TOUCH  WITH  THE  ENEMY  167 

march  in  the  direction  of  the  city  of  Cocofoo,  one  of  the  sacred 
spots  of  Ashanti  situated  near  the  Lake  Boosumaque,  from  the 
waters  of  which  the  King  of  Ashanti  obtained  fish  for  his  palace. 
We  were  now  well  mto  the  old  kingdom  of  Ashanti.  Only  one 
among  the  four  officers  (Brabazon),  who  had  joined  me  three 
weeks  earlier,  was  fit  for  service  on  this  day  ;  two  of  the  others 
were  prostrate  with  fever  ;  the  fourth,  MacGregor,  was  just  able 
to  stagger  along  the  track.  Two  hours'  march  brought  the 
advanced  guard  under  Brabazon  in  contact  with  the  enemy 
at  a  village  called  Akina,  situated  on  the  top  of  a  steep  hiU 
and  more  than  one  thousand  feet  above  sea-level.  Here  there 
was  another  skirmish  ;  we  had  two  Akims  killed,  but  their 
heads  were  not  taken.  The  Ashantis  retreated,  and  the 
village  was  ours.  It  really  seemed  that  Fortune  had  at  last 
declared  for  us.  I  had  now  to  close  up  the  ranks  of  my  extra- 
ordinary army,  fortify  this  commanding  position,  and  boil  up 
the  spirits  of  my  kings  for  a  further  advance  upon  the  enem3\ 

On  the  early  morning  of  the  28th  January  a  party  of  Ashantis 
stole  into  our  camp  along  a  bypath,  fired  at  and  wounded  some 
Akims  who  were  lymg  asleep  near  a  fire,  and  got  away  un- 
molested. We  had  taken  in  Akina  a  very  sacred  fetish  stool 
belonging  to  the  chief  of  the  town  ;  the  night  raid  was  said 
to  have  had  for  its  object  the  recovery  of  this  venerated  relic. 

I  spent  the  30th  January  urging  upon  the  kings  the  necessity 
of  making  another  forward  move.  We  must  now  be  very  near 
to  the  main  line  of  advance,  probably  only  a  few  miles  from  it. 
On  the  preceding  day  one  of  our  scouting  parties  had  entered 
the  town  of  i\Iansuah  at  Lake  Boosumaque,  which  they  found 
deserted.  They  brought  back  news  that  the  Ashantis  were  in 
a  camp  at  Cocofoo,  a  few  miles  to  the  north  of  Mansuah,  and 
that  the  King  of  Ashanti,  Coffee  Kerrikerri,  was  with  them. 
They  added  that  there  was  another  large  camp  of  the  enemy 
at  Amoaful,  on  the  main  road  west  of  Akina.  This  news  of  the 
scouts  filled  my  kings  with  fear.  One  of  them,  Darco  of 
Accassee,  chattered  with  terror  as  he  urged  in  palaver  the 
dangers  they  were  in.  I  had  just  received  a  despatch  from 
Sir  Garnet  Wolseley,  dated  Fommanah,  25th  January,  a 
hurried  postscript  to  which  aimounced  that  the  King  of  Ashanti 
had  acceded  to  all  the  demands  of  the  major-general,  and  that 
in  view  of  his  submission  a  speedy  termination  of  hostilities 


168    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

was  probable.  When  I  communicated  this  news  to  my  kings 
they  one  and  aU  declared  that  the  King  of  Ashanti  was  a  liar, 
that  he  meant  to  fight,  and  that  his  people  were  determined 
to  do  so.  In  this  view  they  were  right.  The  acceptation  of 
Sir  Garnet's  terms  of  peace  was  only  a  pretence  to  gain  time. 
Subsequent  events  proved  that  the  news  brought  by  my  scouts 
from  Mansuah  was  quite  correct.  Ten  thousand  Ashantis 
were  at  Cocofoo  between  Akina  and  Coomassie. 

On  the  afternoon  of  the  30th  January  the  entire  force  of 
Akims  on  and  around  the  hiU  at  Akina  suddenly  began  to 
move  out  of  their  camps  back  along  the  road  we  had  come  from 
the  Ennoon  River.  The  kings  had  given  me  no  warning  of 
this  intention  :   my  campaign  in  Ashanti  was  at  an  end. 

A  fortnight  later  I  reached  the  Coast.  On  the  march  down 
I  met  the  then  Captain  Redvers  BuUer,  Head  of  the  Intelligence 
Department,  and  from  him  I  heard  the  other  side  of  the  story. 
During  the  two  daj^^s  spent  in  Coomassie  he  had  collected  a  mass 
of  Ashanti  information. 

'  Ten  thousand  Ashantis  were  gathered  at  Cocofoo  in  front 
of  you,'  he  said  ;  '  they  were  not  at  Amoaful.  The  presence 
of  your  force  at  Akina  until  the  evening  of  the  30th  kept  them 
from  being  on  our  flank  the  next  day.' 

So,  after  all,  my  Akim  venture  had  been  of  some  service  to 
the  campaign.  There  would  be  Uttle  gained  by  attempting  to 
after-cast  either  what  might  have  been  if  this  Cocofoo  army 
of  ten  thousand  had  been  present  with  the  other  ten  thousand 
which  fought  so  stiffly  at  Amoaful  on  31st  January  ;  or  again, 
what  might  have  happened  if  they  had  fallen  upon  my  fifteen 
hundred  or  two  thousand  Akims  at  Akina  ;  or  again,  what 
would  have  come  to  pass  if  I  had  succeeded  m  inducing  my 
kings  to  make  another  forward  move  on  that  Slst.  Of  aU  the 
might-have-beens,  those  in  war  are  the  most  futile. 

In  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley's  despatch  to  the  Secretary  of  State, 
written  on  the  evening  of  the  day  upon  which  he  left  Coomassie, 
this  sentence  occurs  : — 

'  So  far  as  the  interests  of  the  expedition  under  my  orders  are 
concerned,  Captain  Butler  has  not  failed,  but  most  successfully 
achieved  the  very  object  which  I  had  in  view  in  detaching  him  for 
the  work  he  so  cheerfully  and  skilfully  undertook.  He  has  effected 
a  most  important  diversion  in  favour  of  the  main  body,  and  has 


NEAR  DEATH  169 

detained  before  him  all  the  forces  of  one  of  the  most  powerful 
Ashanti  Chiefs.' 

Although  I  got  down  to  the  sea  the  wreck  of  a  wreck,  I 
imagined  that  all  my  troubles  were  past,  and  that  I  should 
only  have  to  get  on  the  deck  of  a  transport  and  lie  down  to 
rest  for  twenty  days.     That  was  not  to  be. 

Three  or  four  days  after  I  reached  Cape  Coast  Castle  a  virulent 
fever,  compared  to  which  the  other  intermittent  fever  I  had 
suffered  had  been  as  nothmg,  suddenly  burst  upon  me  like  a 
thief  in  the  night,  and  the  pent-up  poison  of  the  long  toil 
broke  out  in  overwhelming  illness.     I  possess  no  record  of  the 
next  two  or  three  months,  and  only  a  very  dim  recollection 
of  the  earlier  half  of  that  period.     I  was  embarked  on  board 
an  old  and  indifferent  steamship  which  was  told  off  for  the 
conveyance  of  sick  and  wounded  from  the  Coast.     Twenty-six 
officers,  mostly  suffering  from  fever  and  dysentery,  had  to  be 
put  in  hammocks  below  the  main-deck.     The  accommodation 
for  sick  people  was  very  bad.    The  heat  was  intense ;  most  of  the 
attendants  were  themselves  either  sick  or  convalescent.     Some- 
thing happened  on  the  third  or  fourth  night  after  sailing,  the 
exact  particulars  of  which  I  cannot  recall ;  but  I  remember 
leaving  my  swinging  cot  below,  climbmg  to  the  open  deck, 
and  being  there  in  the  night  air  with  very  scanty  covering  for 
some  time.    Then  there  was  a  crash,  and  I  remember  striliing 
some  hard  substance  with  mj*  head  as  I  fell  upon  the  deck. 
How  long  I  remained  lying  unconscious  on  that  wet  deck  I  do 
not  know ;  but  aU  at  once  consciousness  returned,  and  with  it 
a  numbed  sort  of  fear.     I  remember  getting  down  the  steps 
of  the  ladder  as  best  I  could,  and  regaining  my  cot.     Next 
morning  the  doctor  found  me  in  the  highest  fever.     It  would 
not  be  possible  to  speak  or  write  of  the  next  ten  days'  suffering. 
Sleep  left  me — nothing  was  able  to  bring  it  back.     At  last 
death  was  supposed  to  have  come  one  morning.     I  dimly 
remember  people  gathered  about  the  cot,  and  one  good  comrade 
asking  in  my  ear  for  my  last  wishes.     I  remember,  too,  suddenly 
declaring  that  I  died  a  Catholic.     Then  there  is  a  blank,  but 
not  altogether,  for  I  can  recoUect  that  after  the  usual  final 
settlings  of  face  and  Umbs  had  been  made — the  eyes  closed, 
and  the  sheet  drawn  over  the  laid-out  figure — there  was  a 


170    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

curious  indistinct  idea  in  my  brain  that  it  was  not  as  people 
supposed  ;  that  I  was  still  conscious,  and  even  that  I  was 
being  carried  by  invisible  hands,  or  being  floated  on  towards 
a  great  cloud-veil,  the  passing  through  which  it  seemed  was  to 
be  the  final  passage  out  of  life.  There  was  no  sensation  of 
bodily  pain.  How  long  I  lay  in  this  condition  I  don't  know, 
but  I  remember  men  coming  agam  about  the  cot,  lifting  the 
sheet,  and  touching  me  and  talking  to  each  other.  Then  I 
thought,  '  These  men  are  about  to  prepare  my  body  for  the 
sea  '  ;  and  as  in  these  hot  latitudes  the  time  between  death 
and  burial  in  the  ocean  was  a  very  short  one,  I  felt  the  extreme 
horror  of  the  situation,  and  longed  to  be  able  to  make  some 
sign  or  movement  by  which  they  might  know  that  I  was  not 
really  dead.  Next  I  heard  one  of  the  men  who  was  moving 
my  limbs  suddenly  say  to  his  comrade,  '  I  don't  think  he  's 
dead.'  It  was  '  Bill,'  or  '  Tom,'  or  '  Jack,'  but  I  have  forgotten 
which  name  it  was.  The  other  man  replied,  '  Dead  ?  you 
something  or  other,  why,  I  saw  him  die  at  eight  o'clock  this 
morning.'  Then  there  was  some  more  arm  lifting  or  moving, 
and  the  man  who  had  first  spoken  went  on,  '  Well,  I  don't 
think  he  's  dead  ;  anyway,  I  '11  go  for  the  doctor.'  Then  more 
people  came  about  the  swinging  cot ;  something  was  done, 
and  I  awoke  or  became  actively  conscious  again. 

For  many  days  after  this  coming  back  I  lay  hovering  on  the 
brink — a  shuttlecock  between  life  and  death.  One  day  I  had 
a  narrow  escape.  I  jumped  from  the  cot  suddenly  in  raging 
delirium,  and  rushed  along  the  mam-deck,  looking  for  any 
exit  that  might  promise  escape.  I  sprang  mto  the  first  open 
door  ;  it  was  the  cook's  galley.  Men  caught  hold  of  me  ;  the 
skeleton  had  the  strength  of  six  sound  men.  I  could  not  be 
got  out  of  the  place  until  an  old  acquaintance  came.  Then  I 
went  quietly  back  with  him.  After  that  I  was  put  into  a 
closed  cabin,  and  special  men  were  told  off  to  watch  day  and 
night.  As  we  slowly  sailed  into  cooler  latitudes  the  fever  of 
the  brain  grew  less  ;  and  at  Madeira  a  Portuguese  clergyman 
came  off  to  the  tossmg  ship,  bad  sailor  though  he  was,  to 
bring  to  the  '  ruckle  of  bones  '  the  final  ministrations  of  that 
Faith,  the  tinkle  of  whose  Mass-bell — more  continuous  and 
far-reaching  even  than  the  loud  drum  beat  of  England  which  the 
American  imagined  circling  the  earth  and  keeping  company 


NETLEY  HOSPITAI^-PROMOTION  171 

with  the  hours — carries  its  morning  message  of  mercy  to  the 
sinners  of  the  world. 

I  lay  for  two  months  m  Netley  Hospital,  and  at  last,  when 
the  summer  was  half  over,  was  declared  fit  for  the  outer  world 
again.  Of  course,  I  missed  all  the  rejoicings,  the  feastings,  and 
the  field  days  that  followed  the  return  to  England  of  the 
victorious  general  and  his  little  army,  but  I  was  not  forgotten 
at  Netley  by  queen  or  country.  Her  Majesty  came  to  my 
bedside  and  spoke  some  very  gracious  words  to  me,  among 
them  being  a  message  of  peculiar  thought  and  kindliness. 
'  When  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley  rode  up  to  my  carriage  at  the 
Wmdsor  Review,  the  Duke  of  Cambridge  whispered  to  me, 
"  If  you  wish  to  please  Sir  Garnet,  the  first  question  should  be 
an  inquiry  for  Captain  Butler."  ' 

In  the  Ashanti  Gazette  I  was  promoted  to  a  majority  in  the 
army,  and  made  a  Companion  of  the  Bath.  It  now  only 
remained  to  get  into  the  Bath-chair  to  which  I  had  also  been 
appointed,  by  the  excellent  doctor  at  Netley.  And  here  I 
desire  to  say  a  word  about  a  body  of  gentlemen-servants  of 
the  State  with  whom  a  long  active  life  made  me  familiar — the 
medical  officers  of  the  army,  I  have  known  them  m  many 
lands,  and  mider  the  varying  conditions  inevitable  to  military 
life.  I  never  knew  them  to  fail.  There  is  no  finer  sight  in 
war  than  the  figure  of  a  military  surgeon  kneelmg  beside  a 
wounded  man  just  behind  the  fighting  line.  Shots  may  come, 
and  shots  may  go,  but  the  surgeon  goes  on  at  his  work,  quietly, 
coolly,  and  with  hand  as  steady  and  dexterous,  and  gaze  as 
concentrated  on  his  business,  as  though  the  scene  were 
the  operating-room  in  a  London  hospital. 

Until  the  close  of  my  work  in  Akim  I  had  no  doctor  with 
me  ;  then  one  was  sent  at  the  time  the  three  officers,  Brabazon, 
Paget,  and  MacGregor,  joined  my  column.  The  doctor,  Lowe, 
was  a  big  breezy  sort  of  man,  who  on  his  arrival  laughed  at 
malaria.  '  It  is  only  a  convenient  professional  expression,' 
he  said.  A  day  or  two  later  he  was  '  down  with  fever  '  at 
Yancoraa,  and  for  the  rest  of  my  short  campaign  I  had  him 
carried  in  a  hammock. 

At  long  last  I  got  away  from  Netley.  I  made  for  the  west 
coast  of  Ireland,  to  regain,  if  possible,  the  health  and  strength 
which  seemed  to  have  been  hopelessly  lost  on  the  west  coast 


172    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

of  Africa.  I  was  stiU  able  to  move  only  a  few  yards  on  my 
feet,  so  I  drove  as  much  as  I  could.  The  outside  car,  the  great 
cliffs  of  Clare,  and  the  heatherj^  glens  of  Kerry — ^these  were 
now  my  doctors.  In  three  weeks  I  was  feeling  a  different  man, 
though  still  very  weak.  At  last  I  came  to  a  little  seaside 
hotel  where  a  few  fisher  and  shootmg  folk  formed  the  company. 

One  day  in  late  September  some  of  them  asked  me  to  go  into 
a  neighbouring  bog  to  look  for  somethmg.  I  went  with  them. 
A  snipe  got  up  in  front  of  me  ;  the  effort  to  get  the  gun  to  the 
shoulder  caused  me  to  stagger,  but  there  was  a  bank  close  by, 
and  I  leant  against  it  while  aiming.  Bang  !  the  snipe  was 
down.     I  was  well. 

I  was  loth  to  leave  these  wonderful  scenes  which  had  given 
me  back  hfe's  most  precious  gift,  and,  learnmg  to  walk,  I 
tarried  off  and  on  among  the  Kerrj^  hills,  shooting  and  writing. 

One  da}^  in  February  1875  a  telegram  came  from  Sir  Garnet 
Wolseley  in  London  : — 

'  Come  at  once,  and  be  ready  to  start  with  me  for  South  Africa 
on  Thursday.' 

My  book  on  Akim-land  ^  was  all  but  finished.  I  put  up  the 
MS.,  packed  my  things,  and  was  in  London  the  next  day. 

Then  I  heard  what  the  telegram  meant.  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley 
was  going  to  Natal  in  a  joint  civil  and  military  capacity — 
Governor  and  High  Commissioner.  He  had  asked  four  of  his 
old  Ashanti  staff  to  go  with  him.  I  was  one  of  them.  Five 
days  later  we  sailed  from  Dartmouth  for  Cape  Town  and 
Durban.  The  voyage  was  then  of  nearly  twice  the  duration 
that  it  is  to-day,  and  we  had  full  time  to  study  the  work  to  be 
done,  as  our  vessel  steamed  slowly  southwards,  skirting  these 
same  jaws  of  Benin,  which,  just  a  year  ago,  had  all  but  closed 
their  bite  upon  me.  One  day,  while  steammg  through  this 
steaming  sea,  something  went  wrong  with  the  machinery, 
and  we  stopped  for  a  few  hours  to  set  it  right.  A  large  number 
of  sharks  gathered  about  the  ship.  The  water  was  very  clear, 
and  with  the  sun  straight  overhead  it  was  possible  to  see  down 
through  its  unruffled  surface  to  a  great  depth.  The  sailing 
voyage  to  India  fifteen  years  before  had  taught  me  something 
of  a  shark's  ways  in  these  waters,  for  we  had  lain  becalmed  in 

^  Akim-J'oo,  the  Hiiitory  of  a  Failure.     (E.  B. ) 


SAILING  FOR  NATAL  173 

thera  for  many  days.  I  crumpled  a  newspaper  together  and 
dropped  it  over  the  stern.  A  huge  shark  came  swimming 
upward  towards  the  white  floating  object.  I  had  a  rifle  laid 
on  it ;  as  he  snapped,  I  fired.  The  bullet  hit  him  fair  in  the 
head  ;  he  turned  a  complete  somersault  out  of  the  water  aijd 
lay  dead  as  a  stone  on  the  surface  ;  then  the  great  body  began 
to  sink  slowly,  belly  upwards.  It  was  curious  to  watch  it 
fathoms  and  fathoms  below,  the  glare  of  the  tropic  sun  striking 
on  the  snow-white  body  as  on  a  looking-glass.  '  I  have  sailed 
the  sea  for  thirty  years,'  said  our  captain,  '  but  that  is  the  first 
shark  I  ever  saw  shot  dead.' 

All  the  members  of  this  new  mission  had  been  former  comrades 
on  the  Coast  with  me.  Colonel  Pomeroy  Colley,  whose  extra- 
ordinary' vigour  and  energj^  a  few  months  earlier  had  saved 
the  transport  service  from  collapse  on  the  Gold  Coast,  was  the 
only  ofiicer  among  our  group  who  had  had  previous  service  in 
South  Africa.  Major  Henry  Brackenbury  ^  had  also  distin- 
guished himself  in  the  late  campaign  as  military  secretary  to 
Sir  Garnet  Wolseley  ;  and  Captain  Lord  Gifford,  V.C,  had  a 
name  which  was  then  a  household  word  in  the  service  and  out 
of  it  for  the  cool  and  determined  courage  with  which  he 
explored  with  a  small  band  of  native  scouts  the  labyrinths 
of  the  forest  in  front  of  the  Ashanti  enemy,  A  new  colonial 
secretary  for  Natal,  ]\Ir.  Napier  Broome,  was  also  of  our 
party.  He  had  been  a  recent  leader-writer  on  the  staff  of 
the  Times. 

We  made  a  merry  party.  Our  chief  was  of  that  rare  make 
of  men  in  whom  the  thing  we  caU  '  command  '  in  the  army 
is  so  much  an  essential  item  of  their  nature  that  one  has  no 
more  thought  of  questionmg  it  than  one  would  think  of 
asking  a  bird  why  he  flew,  or  a  river  why  it  flowed.  Wolseley 
was  the  only  man  I  met  in  the  army  on  whom  command  sat 
so  easily  and  fitly  that  neither  he  nor  the  men  he  commanded 
had  ever  to  think  about  it.  And  it  was  this  fact  of  command 
by  right  that  made  his  companionship  as  easy  to  others  as  his 
leadership  was  easy  to  himself.  It  was  such  a  delight  to  meet 
a  general  of  a  type  entirely  different  from  an\i:hing  of  the  kind 
I  had  ever  seen  before  in  our  army,  that  the  chief  regret  I  had, 
on  this  my  third  turn  of  service  with  him,  was  that  I  was  less 

^  Now  Sir  Henry. 


174    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

likely  to  be  of  use  to  him  now  than  I  had  been  in  Canada  or 
Ashanti. 

The  poison  of  the  bite  of  the  Gold  Coast  was  not  yet  all  out 
of  my  veins,  and  Natal  in  March  was  said  to  have  still  a  fervid 
sun  above  it. 

We  reached  Cape  Town  on  17th  March,  had  a  few  days  there, 
and  then  went  on  in  a  splendid  frigate,  the  Raleigh,  to  Durban. 
This  vessel  had  just  been  launched,  the  first  and  last  of  her 
type,  meant  for  steam  and  wind,  with  great  engines  and  large 
masts — a  combination  which  our  own  experience  was  shortly 
to  prove  useless.  Sir  Garnet  carried  a  letter  from  the  Admiralty 
directing  the  admiral  at  Simon's  Town  to  detach  a  ship  from 
the  flying  squadron  for  his  transport  to  Natal,  and  the  Raleigh 
was  placed  at  his  service.  After  a  dinner  on  board  Admiral 
Randolph's  flagship  we  rowed  to  the  Raleigh,  and  were  received 
by  Captain  Try  on  on  his  quarter-deck.  His  name  will  be  long 
associated  with  one  of  the  most  tragic  chapters  in  modern 
naval  histor3^  In  weighing  anchor  immediate^  afterwards 
something  went  wrong  in  the  operation  of  catting  the  anchor, 
and,  as  the  sea  was  rising  before  a  south-easterly  wind,  the 
huge  mass  of  the  anchor  swinging  just  at  the  water-line  was 
considered  dangerous,  and  there  was  a  good  deal  of  hauhng 
work  before  it  could  be  secured.  Captain  Tryon  came  into 
the  deck  cabin  where  we  were  assembled,  to  explain  what  had 
happened.  The  trouble  was  complicated  because  a  rock  known 
as  '  the  Roman  '  was  only  a  short  distance  off,  on  the  lee  side, 
so  that  if  the  ship  went  ahead  the  anchor  would  swing  against 
her  bows,  and  if  she  didn't  go  ahead  the  wind  might  take  us 
on  '  the  Roman  '  rock.  Wolseley  was  seated  on  the  table. 
'  My  dear  captain,'  he  said,  '  on  the  deck  of  a  British  ship-of- 
war  I  always  feel  that  I  am  on  the  safest  spot  in  the  world.' 
When  morning  came  we  had  cleared  False  Ba,y  and  were  steer- 
ing in  the  teeth  of  a  violent  south-easter.  Trj-on  was  a  veritable 
Triton,  a  powerfully  built  man,  with  a  large  strong  face  and  a 
deep  voice.  He  spared  nothmg  on  this  occasion  to  make  the 
few  days  we  were  on  his  ship  pleasant  to  us.  The  Raleigh 
burned  nearly  three  hundred  tons  of  coal  in  twenty-four  hours  ; 
but  in  the  face  of  the  south-easter  she  made  slow  progress, 
and  her  captain  and  officers  were  not  a  little  put  out  when, 
in  the  middle  of  the  driving  mist  of  the  first  day's  storm,  we 


NEW  DUTIES  175 

saw  our  old  friend  the  W aimer  Castle  steaming  slowly  past  us, 
burning  some  thirty  tons  in  the  same  period.  But  the  gale 
went  down  the  next  day,  and  then  canvas  had  its  chance, 
and  took  it  splendidly.  With  every  stitch  set  on  the  huge 
masts,  the  ship  sped  along  the  coasts  of  Kaffraria  for  four 
hundred  miles,  and  on  29th  ]March  the  sight  of  a  canvas- 
clouded  frigate  coming  up  to  the  roadstead  at  Durban  was 
the  first  intimation  the  people  of  Natal  had  of  Sir  Garnet's 
advent  among  them. 

Then  began  some  six  months  of  most  varied  and  interesting 
work.  The  central  object  of  the  mission  was  to  mduce  the 
Government  and  people  of  Natal  to  alter  their  Constitution, 
giving  to  the  Crown  larger  powers  in  the  nomination  of  members 
to  the  Legislative  Council,  the  object  being  to  prevent  the 
recurrence  of  certain  repressive  measures  against  the  natives 
which  the  Secretary  of  State  considered  had  been  hostile  to 
the  spirit  as  weU  as  to  the  letter  of  English  law. 

The  part  which  fell  to  my  lot  in  the  programme  of  work 
was  a  varied  one.  I  was  nominated  Protector  of  Indian 
Immigrants,  a  position  which  gave  me  a  seat  on  the  Council 
and  also  in  the  Legislative  Assembly  of  the  colony. 

I  had  to  report  on  the  land  system  existing  in  Natal,  with  a 
view  to  the  introduction  of  British  colonists,  to  study  native 
questions,  and  take  part  in  the  debates  when  the  Legislative 
Council  was  in  session.  Meanwhile  a  season  of  social  hospitali- 
ties was  begun  on  the  most  lavish  scale.  Dinner  parties  at 
Government  House  were  of  nightly  occurrence.  Dances  were 
constantly  taking  place.  Within  a  fortnight  the  ladies  were  aU 
on  the  new  governor's  side.  It  could  not  well  have  been  other- 
wise. Who  could  resist  the  fascination  of  this  young  general, 
in  whom  an  extraordinary  capacity  for  labour  of  the  most 
serious  kind  was  combined  with  a  buoyancy  of  spirit  and 
natural  kindness  of  character  seldom  found  united  in  the  same 
individual  ? 

Of  course,  '  the  attempt  to  tamper  with  the  Constitution,' 
as  it  was  called  by  a  section  of  Natal  societj%  gave  rise  to 
considerable  opposition  ;  and  when  the  Legislative  CouncU 
met,  very  hvely  discussions  took  place  in  that  small  assembly 
at  which  ambitious  Hampdens  and  journalistic  Vanes  were 
present.     But  the  whole  thing  was  in  truth  a  teacup  tempest. 


176    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

The  eternal  African  native  was  the  sole  reality  in  it,  and  all 
the  talking,  and  the  travelling  that  was  to  follow  the  talking, 
got  Natal  no  nearer  to  the  solution  of  that  immense  human 
problem. 

The  longer  I  have  watched  the  workings  of  the  great  and 
the  little  representative  and  deliberative  assemblies  of  the 
world,  the  more  I  have  been  disposed  to  think  of  the  dog  on 
the  deck  of  a  canal  boat,  who  imagines  he  is  pulling  the  load 
because  he  stands  barking  at  the  old  horse  that  is  dragging  it. 
But  perhaps  if  that  dog  did  not  think  he  was  doing  all  this 
work,  he  might  be  biting  some  of  the  people  at  the  other  end 
of  the  boat. 

The  Natal  Constitution  Bill  passed  by  a  very  small  majority, 
and  then  came  a  time  of  intense  interest  to  me  personally. 
We  started  up  country  to  visit,  first,  the  locations  from  which 
the  tribes  of  Langalabalele  and  Putili  Zulus  had  been  recently 
ejected,  at  the  foot  of  the  Drakensberg  Mountains  ;  then  the 
line  of  the  Tugela  River  and  the  Ladysmith  and  Newcastle 
districts  ;  and,  finally,  I  was  to  be  detached  on  a  mission  to 
President  Brand  in  Bloemfontein,  the  Kimberley  Diamond 
Fields,  and  Basutoland.  If,  a  quarter  of  a  century  later,  it 
was  to  fall  to  my  lot  to  hold  a  high  civil  and  military  position 
in  South  Africa  on  my  own  account  and  to  endeavour  to  tell 
the  governing  powers  of  England  of  the  size,  weight,  and  sub- 
stance of  certain  forces  and  quantities  in  the  problem  with  which 
they  would  then  have  to  deal,  I  owe  it  largely,  if  not  wholly, 
to  the  mission  I  was  now  about  to  undertake,  that  many 
warning  words  written  and  spoken  by  me  under  circumstances 
of  no  little  difficulty  and  complexity  in  that  later  time,  were  at 
least  found  fairly  accurate  when  all  the  account  was  closed. 

We  set  out  in  mid- June  for  the  Drakensberg,  with  saddle- 
horses  and  waggons.  The  weather  was  perfect,  the  scenery  not 
to  be  surpassed.  Tower-topped  moimtaius,  ten  and  twelve 
thousand  feet  in  height,  snow-crowned  and  purple,  rose  as 
Natal's  western  boundary  wall.  Along  the  feet  of  these  we 
travelled,  each  night  camp  measured  from  the  last  night's  one 
by  the  '  trek  '  of  the  oxen — sometimes  ten  miles,  sometimes 
five,  for  there  were  many  drifts  to  be  crossed  and  hours  were 
often  lost  at  some  of  them.  But  with  our  horses  to  let  us  rove 
in  front  or  on  the  flanks  of  the  transport  waggons,  the  shortest 


IN  THE  ORANGE  FREE  STATE  177 

day's  trek  often  gave  us  the  longest  day  of  sport  or  rambling. 
June  is  South  Africa's  mid-wmter,  a  season  of  brilliant  sunshine 
and  clear  frosty  nights  ;  sunrises  of  great  silent  beauty,  with 
snow-white  mists  rising  from  unseen  river  beds,  and  climbing 
slowly  up  the  mountain's  eastern  face,  thinning  and  dissolving 
as  they  ascend  ;  evenings  of  still  more  perfect  lustre  when  the 
sun  has  gone  down  behind  the  many  domes  and  turrets  of  the 
Drakensberg,  and  the  western  sky  above  the  serrated  snow  is 
one  vast  green  and  saffron  afterglow.  These  were  pleasant  days. 

We  struck  the  Tugela  in  the  centre  of  the  great  angle  which 
half  encloses  it  for  some  miles  after  it  has  come  down  in  three 
great  jumps  from  the  top  of  the  Drakensberg  ;  then  we  jour- 
neyed past  scenes  which,  twenty-five  years  later,  were  to  loom 
large  m  our  history  :  to  Ladysmith,  and  up  to  Newcastle,  a 
tiny  village  of  a  dozen  houses.  From  this  place  Sir  Garnet 
Wolseley  followed  the  Tugela  Valley,  and  I  began  my  journey 
through  the  Orange  Free  State  to  Kimberley. 

At  that  time  no  land  on  earth  seemed  to  lie  in  greater  peace 
and  surer  prospect  of  its  continuance  ;  but,  strangely  enough, 
I  find  in  a  pocket  notebook  I  then  carried  a  quotation  which 
must  have  expressed  some  foreboding  in  my  mmd,  other- 
wise it  would  scarcely  have  found  entry  there  : — 

'  Thus  far  their  (the  white  men's)  course  has  been  marked  with 
blood,  and  with  blood  must  it  be  traced  to  its  termination  either  in 
their  own  destruction  or  in  that  of  thousands  of  the  population  of 
Southern  Africa.' 

From  Newcastle  in  a  long  day's  ride  I  ascended  the  Drakens- 
berg by  the  Ingogo  Valley  and  Botha  Pass,  thence  by  post-cart 
from  Harrismith  and  Bethlehem  and  Winburg  to  Bloemfontem. 
This  was  a  five  daj-s'  journey.  xA.bove  the  berg  the  land  was 
all  a  great  rolling  plain  of  veldt,  unmarked,  unfenced,  with 
enormous  herds  of  blesbok,  springbok,  and  other  antelopes 
grazing  or  galloping  over  it,  the  cart  path  a  thin  ribbon  of  lighter 
colour  winding  away  through  a  brown  waste,  over  which 
blew  a  wind  of  the  keenest  and  most  invigorating  freshness. 
At  intervals,  on  either  side  of  the  road-ribbon,  table-topped  hills 
rose  near  and  far,  breaking  the  dull  monotony  of  the  lower 
level,  until  the  straight  lines  of  their  summits  became  merged 
into  a  distant  horizon. 

M 


178    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

At  Bloemfontein  I  presented  my  letters  of  introduction  to 
President  Brand,  and  during  the  following  days  I  had  many 
interviews  with  that  remarkable  man.  Bloemfontein  was 
then  onty  a  large  village,  but  on  market-day  the  place  was 
crowded  with  men  in  well-horsed  Cape  carts,  or  large  waggons 
drawn  by  many  oxen — a  fine,  manly,  heavy-bearded,  and  broad- 
shouldered  race  of  men,  and  with  women  with  large  fair  faces, 
big  figures,  and  light  brown  hair.     Babies  were  very  numerous. 

I  passed  on  to  Kimberley,  travelling  in  a  four-horsed  post- 
cart  which  left  Bloemfontein  shortly  before  sunset.  A  little 
Bushman  driver  and  two  half-Hottentot,  half-Bushman  girls 
were  the  only  other  occupants  of  the  vehicle. 

A  strange  green  porcelain-coloured  sunset  tinged  half  the 
western  sky  and  presaged  some  weather  turmoil  from  the  west, 
into  which  we  were  rapidly  driving,  and  a  wild  storm  broke 
upon  us  before  we  were  manj^  hours  out.  First,  blinding  dust, 
then  a  deluge  of  rain,  which  soon  turned  into  blinding  snow, 
and  thunder  and  lightning  such  as  I  had  not  seen  even  on  the 
Gold  Coast.  The  lightning  was  everywhere  at  once,  so  rapidly 
did  the  vivid  flashes  follow  one  another,  and  simultaneously 
with  them  came  the  burst  and  crash  of  the  discharges.  We 
were  moving  through  an  atmosphere  so  charged  with  electric 
currents  that,  looking  up,  I  saw  for  the  first  and  last  time  in 
my  life  a  curious  phenomenon — a  bluish  light  like  that  of  a  tall 
thin  candle  flame  extending  some  inches  from  the  top  of  the 
long  whip  handle  which  the  driver  had  m  his  hand.  The  post- 
cart  owner  in  Bloemfontein  had  provided  a  large  sheepskin 
'  karrosse  '  for  my  use,  but  I  could  not  allow  the  two  wretched 
Bushman  girls  in  the  back  of  the  cart  to  lie  cowering  in  the 
wet  snow,  and  the  karrosse  made  them  less  miserable. 

At  four  in  the  morning  we  reached  the  village  of  Boshoff, 
the  rain  still  falling  in  torrents.  Next  day  Kimberley  was 
reached  in  baking  sunshine.  At  that  time  Kimberley  (or 
Colesberg)  was  a  strange  place.  It  had  just  concluded  a  small 
rebellion  on  its  own  account — had  risen  against  its  English 
governor  and  his  colonial  secretary,  established  a  provisional 
government,  rescued  a  recalcitrant  storekeeper  from  the  hands 
of  three  constables,  and  done  several  other  free  and  independent 
things.  No  Dutchmen  or  Boers  took  part  in  this  movement, 
which  had  its  origin  in  some  Government  order  permitting  the 


A  GLIMPSE  OF  KIMBERLEY  179 

black  men  to  work  as  diamond  diggers  for  themselves.  The 
approach  of  six  companies  of  British  soldiers  marching  from 
Cape  Town  had  caused  a  general  stampede  of  the  four  chief 
standard-bearers  of  liberty — an  Englishman,  a  German,  an 
Irishman,  and  a  Natal  colonist — across  the  border,  and  things 
had  resumed  their  normal  condition  of  good-fellowship. 

I  found  the  British  battalion  (the  24th  Regiment)  encamped 
at  Barkle}^  on  the  Vaal  River,  north  of  Kimberley.  It  was  this 
battalion,  with  nearly  all  the  officers  who  were  now  present 
at  Barkley,  which  was  totally  destroyed  by  the  Zulus  at 
Isandula  four  years  later. 

Manj?^  interestmg  characters  had  gathered  in  Kimberley  at 
this  time.  Eton  and  Harrow  men  ;  old  army  officers  ;  young 
adventurous  spirits  from  the  Cape  Colony  ;  East  End  and 
German  Jews  in  great  abundance — all  these  were  to  be  found. 
The  late  Mr.  Rhodes  was  there,  but  I  did  not  meet  him.  The 
town  consisted  of  corrugated  iron  and  canvas,  the  streets  were 
deep  in  mud  and  empty  bottles,  and  ten  or  twelve  thousand 
negroes  were  at  work  in  Colesberg  pit,  which  was  twelve  acres 
in  size  and  two  hundred  feet  in  depth.  Every  grade  and  shade 
m  life  was  represented  here.  There  was  a  university  man  who 
gave  readings  in  the  Town  Hall,  and  his  rendering  of  Tennyson's 
*  May  Queen  '  so  deeply  affected  a  huge  Cornish  miner  at  the 
back  of  the  audience  that  he  ejaculated  in  a  deep  voice  at  the 
end  of  the  words  '  For  I  'm  to  be  Queen  of  the  May,  Mother ' : 
'  And  so  am  I !  '  He  w^as  a  large,  bearded  man,  and  he  appeared 
so  thoroughly'  in  earnest  in  the  matter  that  the  reading  could 
not  be  continued. 

I  got  back  to  Bloemfontein  on  23rd  July,  through  a  country 
where  thousands  of  sheep  had  been  killed  by  the  snow-storm  ; 
and  after  many  more  conversations  with  President  Brand,  in 
which  twenty-five  years  of  the  previous  history  of  that  part  of 
vSouth  Africa  were  reviewed,  I  set  out  for  Basutoland,  intending 
to  enter  Natal  by  a  pass  over  the  Drakensberg  near  the  great 
Tugela  Waterfall,  We  camped  at  Thabanchu  the  first  night, 
where  the  old  chief  of  the  Barralongs,  Moroko,  ninety  years  of 
age,  still  dwelt,  and  reached  Maseru  early  the  next  day. 

The  commissioner  here,  Colonel  Griffiths,  had  seen  much 
colonial  service  ;  and,  like  Colonel  Southey  at  Kimberley,  he 
had   gone  through  campaigns   in  Kaffraria  under  Sir  Harry 


180    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Smith.  We  rode  together  over  the  remarkable  table  mountain 
called  the  Berea,  where  the  paramount  Cliief  Moshesh  had 
defeated  a  column  of  British  troops  in  the  war  of  1852  ;  then, 
having  bought  a  couple  of  Basuto  ponies  for  the  ride  to  Natal, 
I  set  out  on  the  4th  August  for  the  head  of  the  Calcdon  River. 
Unfortunately,  one  of  the  ponies  came  down  under  me  on 
some  flat  rocks  as  we  were  nearing  a  French  Protestant  mission 
station  at  the  advanced  posts.  The  cap  of  my  knee  was  deeply 
cut ;  but  the  excellent  wife  of  the  missionary  dressed  the 
wounds,  and  I  went  on  the  next  mornmg  towards  Leribe,  a 
ride  of  over  forty  miles,  where  dwelt  the  Basuto  chief  Moloppo, 
the  son  of  Moshesh,  the  owner  of  fifty  wives,  and  reputed  to  be 
full  of  craft  and  cunning.  The  agent  at  Leribe  was  Major 
Bell,  an  old  Cape  Corps  soldier,  who  had  fought  under  Harry 
Smith  at  Boomplatz  in  1849.  The  next  day's  ride  from  Leribe 
was  through  scenery  of  a  very  wild  and  striking  character. 
We  were  bound  for  the  kraal  of  Letsika,  still  higher  up  the 
Caledon.  I  had  with  me  two  Basuto  policemen,  with  whom 
I  could  not  exchange  a  word  ;  but  we  got  on  well  by  signs, 
and  when  one  has  been  in  the  habit  of  living  with  any  one 
African  race,  it  is  easy  to  be  at  home  with  another.  The  root 
ideas  and  tokens  are  the  same  everywhere  ;  so  is  the  food. 

Our  path  lay  through  a  gorge  in  the  mountains,  at  the 
bottom  of  which  the  river  ran  in  deep  curves.  The  sun  could 
not  reach  the  bottom  of  this  glen,  which  was  bounded  on  either 
side  by  steep  precipitous  cliffs  of  sandstone  rock,  ending  above 
in  turrets  and  spires.  The  path  wound  in  zigzags  up  to  a 
ledge,  upon  which  stood  the  kraal  of  Letsika. 

Lower  down  on  the  level  ground  we  had  met  a  Basuto,  gallop- 
ing for  all  he  knew  on  a  grey  pony,  coming  towards  us.  The 
policemen  called  to  him  to  stop,  but  as  he  had  no  bit,  and  only 
a  rope  at  one  side  of  the  pony's  mouth,  he  could  only  pull  up 
by  circling  his  steed  round  and  round  us  until  the  animal  came 
to  a  stand  for  want  of  a  smaller  circle  space.  They  had  heard 
I  was  coming,  and  he  was  riding  to  the  nearest  store,  ten  miles, 
for  some  English  food,  coffee,  sugar,  etc.  They  had  killed  a 
kid  in  the  kraal.  How  like  all  these  people  were  to  old  Bible 
folk !  It  was  we  who  were  different.  We  got  to  the  kraal 
with  tired  horses.  Letsika  was  a  good-looking  young  man, 
and  his  yo-ang  wife  did  her  household  work  well.     They  had 


OVER  MOUNTAIN  PASSES  181 

evacuated  their  circular  Basuto  hut,  which  was  swept  and 
ready.  The  kid  was  cooked  and  eaten  ;  then  Letsika  and  his 
wife  came  and  sat  on  the  clay  bench  that  ran  round  the  wall. 
They  had  a  Basuto  Bible,  printed  in  English  letters  ;  t  had  a 
story  of  Bret  Harte's. 

To  Letsika's  astonishment,  I  read,  letter  by  letter,  his  Bible, 
my  pronunciation  evoking  frequent  laughter  ;  and  to  my 
own  astonishment  Madame  Letsika  spelt  out  Bret  Harte  in 
the  same  manner,  the  French  clergyman's  wife  having  taught 
her  at  the  mission  school. 

As  night  closed,  the  literary  entertainment  was  continued 
by  the  light  of  a  fibre  wick  floating  in  the  grease  of  the  fatted 
kid. 

Next  day  we  continued  the  ascent,  along  dizzy  ledges  round 
which  the  ponies  crept  with  wonderful  sure-footedness,  ascend- 
ing often  by  steps  cut  in  the  rock.  I  should  have  been  glad 
to  dismount  at  these  places,  but  as  the  native  guides  kept 
their  saddles,  I  did  the  same.  No  horse  in  the  world  can 
beat  a  Basuto  pony  in  mountain  cUmbing. 

On  our  left  we  had  the  Roode  Berg,  and  on  our  right  the 
Mont  Aux  Sources  began  to  show  its  turret  tops.  This  is  the 
highest  mountain  south  of  the  Zambesi,  and  from  its  sides  the 
largest  rivers  of  the  Transvaal,  Natal,  and  the  Cape  Colony 
shed  their  waters. 

In  the  afternoon  a  violent  storm  came  sweeping  after  us  up 
the  Caledon  ;  its  coming  was  preceded  by  a  loud  howling 
noise  lower  down  the  valley.  I  was  riding  in  front,  the  two 
Basutos  some  distance  behind  ;  they  called  out  something  to 
me,  but  I  did  not  imderstand,  and  before  there  was  time  to  do 
anything  the  wind  was  on  us.  It  struck  so  hard  that  my  pony 
was  blown  off  the  path,  fortunately  landing  on  a  slope  two  or 
three  feet  lower  down.  After  this  experience  we  all  dis- 
mounted at  the  bad  places.  We  reached  the  source  of  the 
Caledon,  then  mounted  the  steep  divide  on  which  snow  was 
lying,  but  the  gale  was  sweeping  the  ridge  so  furiously  that 
we  could  not  stand  before  it.  Below,  on  the  farther  side,  lay 
Witzic's  Hoek,  where  dwelt  Paulus  Moperi,  a  cousin  of  old 
Moshesh's.  Paulus  had  been  to  London  in  early  3'ears,  and 
he  did  not  appear  to  have  been  unduly  astonished  at  anything 
he  had  seen  there.     I  once  asked  an  educated  negro  on  the 


182    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Gold  Coast  what  his  people  thought  of  Englishmen.  '  Half  a 
fetish,  half  a  fool,'  was  the  answer  ;  '  a  fetish  because  they  do 
things  we  can't  do,  and  a  fool  because  they  come  out  here  to 
do  them.' 

From  Moperi's  kraal  I  crossed  the  Drakensberg  by  a  rough 
bridle  path  into  Natal,  and  in  a  long  day's  ride  reached  the 
Tugela  presidency,  where  my  damaged  knee  was  again  dressed. 

Another  ride  of  fifty  miles  took  me  from  the  presidency  to 
the  valley  of  Colenso,  by  reaches  of  river  and  spurs  of  mountain 
to  which  another  quarter  of  a  century  would  bring  celebrity. 

On  I2th  August  I  reached  Maritzburg. 


CHAPTER  XII 

The  state  of  South  Africa  in  1875.  On  the  Staff  at  the  War  Office.  Military 
administration.  First  meeting  with  Gordon.  Marriage.  War  in  Eastern 
Europe.  Annexation  of  the  TranaviiaL  Visit  to  Cyprus.  The  Zulu  War. 
Isandula.     Departure  for  South  Africa. 

I  FOUND  all  the  members  of  our  mission  reassembled  in 
Government  House,  Maritzburg,  after  their  various  travels. 
Reports  had  now  to  be  written  embodying  the  impressions 
formed  upon  the  different  subjects  of  reference — native  affairs, 
land  tenures.  Crown  lands,  and  the  possible  trend  of  affairs 
in  the  Dutch  states  beyond  our  borders. 

A  notable  visitor  had  joined  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley's  party 
in  the  person  of  Mr.  James  Anthony  Froude.  My  friend, 
General  Sir  Henry  Brackenbury,  in  a  recent  volume  of  recollec- 
tions, referring  to  Mr.  Froude's  presence  at  this  time,  has  said 
that  '  Butler  got  more  into  his  (Mr.  Froude's)  confidence  and 
intimacy  in  a  day  than  he  (Colonel  Brackenbury)  had  done 
in  six  months ;  in  the  woes  of  Ireland  they  had  a  subject 
of  deep  common  interest  to  both.'  My  recollections  of  that 
pleasant  intercourse  and  of  those  social  gatherings  round  the 
general's  table  in  old  Government  House,  at  the  foot  of  the 
slope  that  led  up  to  Fort  Napier  and  the  Zwart  Kop,  are  not 
quite  General  Brackenbury 's.  He  is  not  fair  to  himself.  I 
think  that  if  Mr.  Froude  honoured  me  with  a  larger  share 
of  liis  conversation  than  that  which  he  gave  to  my  com- 
panions, it  was  because  being  Irish  and  Catholic  I  presented, 
perhaps,  a  wider  target  for  his  shots  than  they  did.  In  his 
own  way  he  had  a  deep  and  fervid  affection  for  Ireland. 
His  heart  was  set  in  Kerry,  and  I  have  an  idea  that  it  was 
by  the  lessons  he  had  learned  in  the  study  of  Tudor  and  Stuart 
times  in  that  part  of  Ireland  that  his  views  of  the  Dutch 
question  in  South  Africa  had  been  coloured  and  even  moulded. 
He  liked,  too,  to  try  Uttle  bits  of  religious  or  political  badinage 
upon  me.     I  remember  his  asking  me  in  a  large  company  if  I 

183 


184    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

had  gone  when  at  Madeira  to  see  the  Portuguese  statue  of  the 
*  Winking  Virgin,'  which  was  said  to  be  there.  I  said  that  I 
had  not,  and  gave  as  my  reason  that  I  had  seen  so  many 
winking  ladies  in  England  that  the  sight  had  ceased  to  have 
novelty  for  me.  It  was  afterwards  that  we  became  friends. 
At  this  time  Mr.  Froude  was  terminating  a  quasi-political 
mission  to  South  Africa,  undertaken  at  the  request  of  Lord 
Carnarvon,  in  the  interests  of  the  Confederation  of  all  the 
States  and  Colonies.  What  a  strange  retrospect  those  thirty- 
four  years  present  to-day  !  How  eager  we  were  at  our 
writings,  our  proposals,  our  plans  for  colonisation,  for  native 
government,  better  land  division  and  tenures,  extensions  of 
railways  and  telegraphs,  and  half  a  dozen  other  matters — so 
hopeful  about  it  all.  And  how  exceedingly  droll  it  must  all 
have  seemed  to  the  little  cherub  up  aloft,  who,  no  doubt,  saw 
the  thirty  years  then  coming  as  we  saw  the  thirty  years  that 
had  gone. 

At  the  time  of  this  mission  of  ours  South  Africa  had  enjoyed 
profound  peace  for  a  quarter  of  a  century.  Two  weak  battalions 
of  infantry  sufficed  to  give  it  garrison.  Old  racial  issues  were 
disappearing  ;  that  best  form  of  race-amalgamation  was 
steadily  progressing — intermarriage.  Then  began,  first  at 
Kimberley,  and  later  in  the  other  mining  centres,  the  intro- 
duction of  the  new  element,  the  preaching  of  the  religion  of 
'  the  top  Dog  and  the  under  Dog  ' ;  the  bounder  suddenly  let 
loose  in  the  '  Ilhmitable,'  to  be  followed  by  a  quarter  century 
of  strife  and  bloodshed,  until  to-day  we  are  arrived  at  the 
precise  spot — Confederation — which  Mr.  Froude  and  a  few 
other  people  then  strove  for,  and  which  was  just  as  possible 
and  as  attainable  at  that  time  as  it  has  been  found  to  be 
to-da5^  In  the  eye  of  the  very  young  child  and  in  that  of 
the  old  man  there  is  the  same  strange  look  of  surprise, 
the  wonder  of  what  it  is  all  about,  and  the  question  of  '  What 
it  was  all  for.'  And  doubtless  so  it  wiU  be  to  the  end, 
until  we  can  aU  sit  with  the  cherub  and  see  both  sides  of  the 
Bwing. 

Not  the  least  interesting  among  the  personahties  met  with 
in  this  visit  to  South  Africa  was  the  then  Mr.  (Sir)  Theophilus 
Shepstone.  In  the  earlier  days  of  my  journey,  while  we  were 
Btill  in  that  beautiful  region  in  Natal  lying  at  the  foot  of  the 


MR.  SHEPSTONE  AND  DR.  COLENSO  185 

Drakensberg  Mountains,  that  quiet  land  of  the  Putili  and 
Langalabeleli  tribes,  I  enjoyed  many  a  day's  companionship 
with  Mr.  Shepstone.  He  had  begun  to  study  human  philosophy 
at  the  bed-rock.  He  had  lived  among  the  Zulus  from  his  child- 
hood. HaK  the  philosophers  of  the  world  have  to  go  dowTi 
from  the  class  before  they  can  go  up  to  the  clouds.  They  are 
like  plants  nurtured  in  a  hot-house,  unable  to  stand  in  the 
open.  Shepstone  had  been  alwaj's  in  the  open.  With  him  the 
years  had  drawn  out  the  telescope  of  hfe  to  its  full  focus  ;  he 
saw  long  distances,  and,  moreover,  the  hills  on  the  horizon 
had  other  sides  for  him.  He  had  the  native  habit  of  long 
silences  ;  then  something  would  occur — the  sight  of  a  blesbok 
on  a  hill-top,  a  flower  by  the  wayside,  an  outcrop  of  some 
coloured  rock  in  a  landslide — and  the  silent  spring  of  thought 
would  begin  to  flow  in  words.  He  would  repeat  some  anecdote 
heard  from  an  old  Zulu  chief  a  generation  earher,  told  in  those 
quaint  conceits  of  language  which  the  wild  men  fashion  so 
easilj^  out  of  the  winds,  the  waters,  and  wilderness  in  which 
they  live.  People  wonder  how  men  whom  we  call  barbarous 
have  so  often  in  their  hves  a  natural  level  of  right  and  wrong, 
a  sense  of  good  and  evil  which  we  imagine  belongs  to  our- 
selves and  our  civilisation  only.  They  forget  that  in  nature 
every^thing  has  a  right  and  a  wrong  side,  and  that  it  is  only  in 
art  you  have  to  teach  people  on  which  side  the  shadow  falls. 
I  think  that  a  day's  ride  in  the  company  of  that  old  white 
Zulu  chief  and  statesman  was  worth  a  whole  term  in  a 
University. 

Shepstone  made  one  mistake  in  his  life ;  but  of  that  later. 

Another  friend  met  at  that  time  in  Natal  was  Dr.  Colenso, 
a  brave  and  devoted  soldier  fighting  an  uphill  battle  against 
the  greeds  and  cruelties  of  man.  He  was  not  in  touch  with 
the  majority  of  his  fellow-colonists  in  those  days,  for  causes 
which  will  be  famihar  to  readers  of  Nathaniel  Hawthorne  fifty 
years  ago,  or  of  Olive  Schreiner  in  our  own  time.  When  you 
cut  down  the  forest  or  clear  the  brushwood  in  a  new  colony, 
the  first  crop  that  springs  from  the  soil  has  many  weeds  in  it. 
It  is  inevitable  that  it  should  be  so  ;  perhaps  it  is  even  neces- 
spiTj.  The  man  who  doesn't  know  how  much  he  doesn't  know 
may  have  his  uses  in  a  new  land,  where  there  is  plenty  of 
space. 


186    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

We  left  Natal  early  in  September,  and  reached  London  a 
month  later. 

It  was  an  interesting  moment,  the  close  of  the  j^-ear  1875. 
Mr.  Disraeli,  having  then  fairly  settled  his  account  with  home 
poUtics  in  the  previous  eighteen  months  of  office,  was  free  to 
launch  forth  into  foreign  enterprises.  Some  great  specialist 
of  the  brain  had  said  that  until  his  sixtieth  year  a  man  was 
himself,  that  from  sixty  to  seventy  he  belonged  to  his  family, 
and  that  from  seventy  onwards  he  was  merged  in  his  tribe. 
Disraeli  was  now  in  his  seventy-first  year.  The  Eastern  in- 
stinct glowed  strongly  within  him — how  strongly  only  the 
Memoirs  will  teU  ;  but,  looking  back  now,  it  is  not  difficult 
to  see  that  signs  were  showing  above  the  surface  in  November 
1875  plainly  indicating  the  whitherwards  of  coming  events. 

Shortly  after  our  arrival  in  England  I  attended  a  levee 
held  in  the  old  Horse  Guards  by  the  Duke  of  Cambridge.  His 
Royal  Highness  was  kind  and  gracious,  said  some  nice  things 
about  bygone  service,  and  a  week  or  two  later  I  was  agree- 
ably surprised  to  receive  a  letter  from  his  military  secretary 
asking  if  I  would  accept  the  position  of  deputy  assistant 
quartermaster-general  at  headquarters.  I  replied  in  the 
affirmative  ;  and  before  I  could  be  gazetted  to  the  appoint- 
ment another  letter  came  from  another  high  official  asking  if 
I  felt  disposed  to  proceed  first  on  a  mission  to  trans-Caspian 
Persia  for  the  purpose  of  reporting  upon  the  Russian  move- 
ments along  the  Attrek  Valley  in  the  direction  of  Merv,  after- 
wards taking  up  the  post  at  headquarters.  All  my  natural 
inclinations  lay  in  the  direction  of  Persia  as  against  Pall  Mail, 
and  I  replied  accepting  the  mission  to  Merv  ;  but  the  proposal 
fell  through  owmg  to  the  refusal  of  the  Foreign  Office  to 
sanction  the  necessary  expenditure,  and  shortly  before  the 
year  closed  I  joined  the  staff  at  the  War  Office. 

It  was  a  marked  change  of  scene,  from  the  extremity  of  the 
circumference  where  my  service  had  hitherto  led  me,  to  the 
exact  centre  of  the  system. 

And  a  highly  centred  system  it  was  at  that  time,  far  more 
than  it  is  at  present.  A  corporal  and  a  file  of  men  could  not 
move  from  Glasgow  to  Edinburgh  except  with  the  sanction 
and  under  the  sign-manual  of  the  headquarters  in  London. 
'  I  am  glad  to  hear  that  you  are  going  to  the  War  Office,'  wrote 


THE  WAR  OFFICE  187 

a  general  of  the  widest  experience  to  me.  '  Yon  will  at  least 
see  there  the  extraordinary  system  under  which  our  army  is 
administered,  and  you  will  also  be  able  to  form  a  judgment  upon 
the  stability  of  the  human  pillars  which  support  the  edifice  of 
administration/  The  thing  that  soon  became  clear  to  me, 
holding  even  a  subordinate  position  in  that  great  congeries 
of  confusion  then  known  as  the  War  Office,  was  the  hopelessness 
of  any  attempt  to  simplify  or  improve  matters  in  any  way. 
A  vast  wheel  was  going  round,  and  all  men,  big  and  little,  were 
pinned  upon  it,  each  one  bound  to  eat  a  certain  set  ration  of 
paper  every  day  of  his  hfe.  It  was  not  the  subject  so  much 
as  the  paper  that  mattered.  In  the  months  following  my 
appointment  I  saw  a  great  deal  of  Major  Redvers  BuUer, 
who  held  an  appointment  similar  to  mine  in  the  adjutant- 
general's  office,  then  presided  over  by  Sir  Richard  Airey. 
My  own  office  had  for  its  head  Sir  Charles  Ellice,  and 
later  on  Sir  Daniel  Lysons.  Many  other  officers  whose  names 
became  known  to  army  fame  in  subsequent  years  held  positions 
at  this  time  on  the  headquarters  sta£F — Colonel  T.  D.  Baker, 
Colonel  Robert  Hume,  Colonel,  afterwards  Sir,  Charles  Wilson, 
Sir  Patrick  MacDougall,  Captain  Herbert  Stuart,  Sir  John 
Ardagh,  and  others.  I  would  speak  in  particular  of  Colonel 
Robert  Hume,  R.E.  He  was  an  exceptionally  brilliant  officer, 
mixing  wit  and  work  in  a  rare  combination.  Like  most  of 
the  young  and  ambitious  soldiers  of  the  time,  his  economic 
resources  were  not  large,  and  he  had  a  hard  struggle,  as  the 
real  head  of  the  Intelligence  Department,  to  work  his  official 
position  and  maintain  a  large  family. 

When  the  long-expected  war  between  Russia  and  Turkey 
began,  the  work  that  fell  to  his  lot  in  briefing  or  coaching  the 
ministers  responsible  for  the  conduct  of  foreign  affairs  was 
very  great.  He  died  of  a  slow  fever  about  the  time  of  the 
occupation  of  Cyprus.  He  had  distinguished  himself  during 
the  Ashanti  War  as  the  engineer-m-chief  of  the  expedition, 
and  no  doubt  his  constitution  had  suffered  on  the  Coast.  But 
I  knew  something  of  his  family  affairs  at  the  time,  and  I  believe 
that  a  life  of  the  largest  value  to  the  State  was  lost,  not  because 
of  the  labour  it  was  doing  in  the  public  service,  but  because 
of  financial  anxieties  and  worries  at  home. 

At  the  moment  when   Colonel  Hume  was  finding  brains 


188    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

and  knowledge,  geographical  and  other,  for  ministers  and 
statesmen  whose  names  figured  large  in  the  European  con- 
gresses that  preceded  and  followed  the  Russo-Turkish  War, 
he  frequentlj^  sat  late  into  the  night  at  home  workmg  a  sewing- 
machine  to  keep  his  children  in  clothes  !  What  a  lot  of  splendid 
human  steel  I  have  seen  cast  on  the  scrap-heap  in  my  time, 
in  the  fulness  of  its  strength  and  usefulness,  through  the  selfish 
stupidity  of  a  system  which  never  seemed  to  know  the  worth 
of  any  human  material  it  had  to  deal  with  ! 

The  mass  of  old  and  confused  buildings  in  Pall  Mall  in  which 
the  administration  of  the  army  was  then  carried  on  was  quite 
typical  of  the  confused  work  itself.  Six  or  seven  houses  had 
been  selected,  and  thrown  into  intercommunication  by  means 
of  three-step  doorways  and  devious  stairways.  All  grades  of 
London  houses  had  thus  been  brought  together — from  the 
fine  rooms  of  a  ducal  residence,  where  one  saw  walls  and 
ceilings  with  medaUions  by  Angelica  Kauffmann  and  Italian 
mantelpieces  of  the  finest  sculpture,  to  the  mean-looking 
lobbies  and  by-rooms  of  what  had  been  once  a  silk-mercer's 
establishment.  The  old  sailor  proverb  about  the  island 
of  St.  Helena — ^that  you  had  the  choice  of  breaking  your 
heart  going  up,  or  your  neck  coming  down — had  in  a  small 
way  its  parallel  in  the  Pall  Mall  makeshift  building  with  its 
many  stairs ;  and  it  was  typical  also  of  the  misfortunes 
attending  upon  the  house  that  is  divided  against  itself  that 
for  fully  forty  j^^ears  the  department  of  State  which  most 
vitally  affected  the  existence  of  the  Empire  was  attempted 
to  be  carried  on  in  a  hole-and-corner  collection  of  buildings, 
most  of  the  rooms  of  which  were  as  unhealthy  to  the 
administrators  as  they  were  unsuitable  for  the  administra- 
tion. 

The  division  existing  between  the  civil  and  military  sides 
in  the  War  Office  was  as  lasting  a  source  of  trouble  to  the 
men  who  went  into  the  houses  as  it  was  an  active  agent  in  pro- 
ducing faults  in  the  work  that  came  out  from  it.  Men  spent 
the  greater  part  of  their  time  in  official  hours  in  writing 
'  minutes  '  from  one  duigy  room  to  another  across  these  dusty 
passages  and  dark  corridors.  The  clerk  who  could  write  the 
sharpest  minute  in  the  most  illegible  handwriting  was  a  valuable 
reinforcement  to  his  particular  side,  and  he  had  never  to  be  at 


THE  SYSTEM  189 

a  loss  in  finding  opportunity  for  discharging  his  '  minute  '  guns 
into  the  ranks  of  some  opponent.  Plenty  of  fighting  could  be 
had  all  round.  The  strangest  part  of  it  was  that  nobody  ever 
seemed  to  think  why  it  was  wrong,  or  to  question  the  foundation 
upon  which  the  system  rested — a  foundation  which  was  entirely 
wrong  m  prmciple,  and  was  therefore  as  certain  to  work  out 
as  wrong  in  practice  as  though  it  had  been  a  piece  of  architecture 
set  on  false  foundations  and  built  upon  faulty  measurements. 
In  my  time  I  knew  m  that  old  building  half  a  score  of  Secretaries 
of  State.  It  was  almost  pathetic  to  see  each  of  these  men 
in  turn  begin  in  hope  and  end  in  failure.  Those  among  them 
who  made  the  fewest  mistakes  were  those  who  tried  the  fewest 
changes  :  bad  as  the  old  machine  was,  it  went  better  with  oil 
and  leisure  than  it  did  with  grit  and  energy.  It  was  like  a  man 
whose  constitution  is  thoroughly  unsound,  but  who,  neverthe- 
less, can  sometimes  reach  old  age,  if  he  does  not  play  pranks, 
or  imagme  himself  either  a  young  man  or  a  strong  man. 

To  understand  the  truth  about  our  military  administration 
you  must  go  a  long  way  back  m  history — in  fact,  to  Oliver 
Cromwell.  One  fact  alone  in  the  history  of  the  last  seventy 
years  should  give  pause  to  all  military  reformers.  It  is  this, 
that  at  the  end  of  every  war  waged  by  us  in  that  period  we 
have  come  to  a  unanimous  agreement  that  we  were  totally 
unprepared  for  the  war  when  we  entered  upon  it  ;  and  yet  if 
you  go  back  to  the  beginning  of  each  of  these  wars  you  will 
also  find  that  when  we  began  them  we  were  perfectly  certain 
we  were  ready,  down  to  the  traditional  last  button. 

London  in  the  middle  'seventies  was  a  gay  place  of  residence. 
Much  of  the  gold  which  the  Franco-German  War  had  poured 
into  it  four  years  earlier  v/as  still  there  ;  men  and  women, 
horses  and  dogs,  even  the  sparrows,  looked  fat,  sleek,  and  jolly  ; 
only  the  poor  were  stiU  thin.  I  look  back  to  a  host  of  friends, 
kind,  hospitable  souls,  chief  among  them  on  the  army  side  being 
Sir  Garnet  Wolseley,  Redvers  Buller,  Evelyn  Wood,  R.  Owen 
Jones,  Robert  Hume,  Henry  Brackenbury,  T.  D.  Baker,  Lord 
Gifford,  John  Ardagh,  Cecil  Russell,  Baker  Russell. 

Everybody  was  eagerly  watching  the  war-cloud  in  the  Near 
East,  speculating  where  the  cloud  would  burst  ;  little  un- 
noticed parties  of  selected  officers  were  going  out  to  look  at 
the  scenerj^  of  islands  in  the  Levant,  or  seek  for  snipe  along  the 


190     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Suez  Canal,  or  ride  through  Asia  Minor  for  the  sport  of  the 
thing.  Everybody  knew  that  something  was  coming.  The 
names  of  places  well  known  in  old  war  days  —  Gallipoli, 
Sebastopol,  Constantmople,  Varna,  the  Dardanelles — came 
again  into  constant  conversation.  More  distant  names  also 
entered  into  the  imaginary  map  of  the  theatre  of  coming  war 
which  we  were  so  frequently  constructing — -Kizil,  Arvat, 
Cabul,  Candahar,  the  Oxus,  Merv. 

It  is  all  thirty  years  ago,  and  two-thirds  of  the  map-makers 
are  dead.  The  world  has  known  many  wars  since  then,  and, 
as  usual,  it  was  the  utterly  unexpected  thing  that  happened 
in  the  end.  Wherever  you  went  in  London  in  the  later  'seven- 
ties, you  saw  numbers  of  little  yellow-faced  men,  with  dark, 
shifty  eyes,  and  a  peculiar  expression  of  half  pain  and  half 
pleasure  upon  their  Mongolian  features.  No  one  took  them  at 
all  seriously  as  a  possible  factor  in  war  or  statesmanship.  It 
was  true  that  they  wore  hats  and  trousers,  but  did  not  thej^  also 
eat  rice  ?  If  any  one  at  those  pleasant  club  dinners  had  even 
hinted  at  the  possibility  of  these  little  yellow  men  meetmg  and 
beating  the  armies  and  navies  of  the  great  white  Czar,  he  would 
have  been  treated  as  an  undiluted  lunatic.  These  little  men 
were  then  busy  learning  in  London  the  lesson  of  how  Asia  was 
to  whip  Europe.  Nothing  so  fraught  with  momentous  results 
to  the  world  had  happened  for  thirteen  hundred  years. 

There  was  one  little  club  dinner  at  this  time  which  was  by 
far  the  most  interesting  I  had  ever  sat  clown  to,  and  which  left 
on  lay  memory  recollections  not  to  be  effaced  in  life.  In  the 
winter  of  1876  Major  Robert  Owen  Jones  asked  me  to  meet  an 
old  friend  and  brother  officer  of  his.  Colonel  Charles  Gordon, 
at  the  time  a  passing  visitor  in  London  from  the  Egyptian 
Soudan.  Of  course,  the  name  of  Chinese  Gordon  was  familiar 
to  every  soldier  in  the  service,  but,  as  usual,  men  accepted  the 
sobriquet  without  troubling  themselves  much  about  the  deeds 
that  had  won  it  ;  indeed,  some  years  later,  I  met  an  officer 
who  believed  that '  Chinese  Gordon  '  was  a  Chinaman  born  and 
bred. 

The  day  of  the  dinner  came  ;  there  were  only  mine  host, 
Gordon,  and  myself.  We  met  in  the  hall  of  the  club,  and  I 
was  introduced  to  a  man  of  middle  age,  rather  under  middle 
height,  of  figure  lithe,  active,  and  well-knit,  and  with  a  face 


A  CLUB  DINNER  WITH  GORDON  191 

which  still  lives  in  my  memory,  not  because  it  had  any  marked 
peculiarity  in  its  profile  or  full-face,  but  because  of  something 
indefinable  in  the  expression  of  the  eyes.  On  the  ocean  one 
is  able  at  a  glance  to  discern  the  difference  between  the 
surface  that  has  the  depth  of  the  Atlantic  under  it,  and  that 
other  surface  which  has  the  mud  of  the  English  Channel  only 
a  few  fathoms  below  it.  A  depth  like  that  of  ocean  was 
within  Gordon's  eyes.  I  never  saw  thought  expressed  so 
clearly  in  any  other  man's.  Above  these  windows  of  his  soul 
rose  a  fine  broad  brow,  over  which  a  mass  of  curly  brown  hair 
was  now  beginning  to  show  streaks  of  grey. 

We  sat  down  to  dinner  ;  there  was  the  little  restraint  natural 
to  men  meeting  for  the  first  time,  but  that  soon  wore  off,  and 
before  the  dinner  was  half  over  conversation  was  in  full  flow. 
It  was  the  best  and  cheeriest  talk  I  ever  listened  to.  Gordon's 
voice  was  as  clear  and  vibrant  as  the  note  of  an  old  Burmese 
bell,  which  has  a  great  deal  of  gold  in  its  metal.  We  adjourned 
to  the  smoking-room,  and  there  the  stream  of  thought  and 
anecdote  flowed  on  even  better  than  before.  In  turn  came 
the  Nile,  the  desert,  the  Khedive  Ismail  (from  whom  Gordon 
had  that  day  received  a  letter  begging  him  to  return  to  Egypt), 
the  fever  of  the  lake  regions,  and  how  there  was  a  new  prophy- 
lactic for  it  called  Werburgh's  tincture,  the  efficacy  of  which 
was  such  that  '  it  would  make  a  sack  of  sawdust  sweat.'  Then 
he  would  change  to  the  Lower  Danube  and  its  races  ;  the 
Russian,  the  Bulgarian,  the  old  Turk,  Sebastopol.  He  spoke 
in  low  but  very  distinct  tones,  and  his  voice,  varying  with  its 
subject,  carried  to  the  ear  a  sense  of  pleasure  in  the  sound 
similar  to  that  which  the  sight  of  his  features,  lit  with  the  light 
of  a  very  ardent  soul,  gave  to  the  listener's  eye.  I  never  heard 
human  voice  nor  looked  into  any  man's  eye  and  found  similar 
tone  and  glance  there,  nor  did  I  ever  meet  a  man  who  had 
equal  facility  for  putting  into  words  the  thoughts  tliat  were 
in  his  brain.  You  had  never  to  ask  an  explanation  ;  the  thing, 
whatever  it  might  be,  was  at  once  said  and  done.  That  night 
was  the  only  one  in  my  club  life  in  which  I  saw  the  man  with 
the  bull's-eye  lantern  come  to  say  the  hour  of  closing  had 
come  and  gone.  We  were  alone  in  the  big  smoking-room, 
but  I  had  not  been  aware  of  it.  I  met  two  men  m  my 
life  who  possessed  this   charm   of   conversation,  Sir   Garnet 


192    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Wolseley  and  Charles  Gordon,  but  in  Gordon  the  gift   was 
the  greater, 

A  few  months  after  this  time  the  war-cloud  broke  along 
the  Lower  Danube  and  in  Asia  Minor,  and  the  spring  and 
summer  of  1877 — ^the  year  that  saw  my  marriage — were  full 
of  rumours  and  preparations.  At  first  it  seemed  that  the 
Russian  march  upon  Constantinople  would  meet  with  feeble 
opposition  ;  then  came  Plevna,  the  fierce  fighting  in  the 
Balkans,  the  taking  of  Adrianople,  and  the  forward  march  of 
the  Russians  upon  the  Bosphorus.  The  excitement  reached 
its  highest  pomt  in  London,  but  it  was  of  a  very  frothy  nature, 
the  music-hall  god  '  Jmgo  '  playing  a  very  conspicuous  part 
in  it. 

AU  these  wars  and  rumours  of  wars  kept  the  staff  in  Pall 
MaU  chained  to  their  desks,  but  as  the  great  war  seemed  to 
draw  nearer  to  us,  or  we  to  it,  the  lesser  war  of  which  I  have 
already  spoken  between  the  rival  sides  in  the  War  Office  grew 
less.  The  reserves  were  called  out,  and,  despite  of  aU  the 
vaticinations  and  prophecies  of  failure  and  desertion,  the 
reservists  turned  up  almost  to  a  man. 

Notwithstanding  the  journalists  and  the  Jingoes,  an  impres- 
sion began  early  to  pervade  the  War  Office  that  there  would 
be  no  war.  The  letters  of  that  time  which  have  since  seen  the 
light  show  that  this  idea  was  also  prevalent  in  India.  Lord 
Lytton  gauged  the  position  very  accurately  when  he  wrote  to 
a  friend,  upon  hearing  that  a  mob  had  broken  Mr.  Gladstone's 
windows,  '  I  don't  think  the  great  heart  of  the  English  people 
is  likely  to  do  more  than  break  wmdows  just  at  present.'  Had 
he  known,  however,  as  I  came  to  know  later,  the  personalities 
and  the  means  employed  to  smash  these  few  panes  of  glass  in 
Harley  Street,  he  would  not  have  confused  the  breakers  even 
with  a  London  mob,  still  less  with  the  mass  of  the  English 
people. 

By  a  strange  coincidence,  I  happened  to  meet  Mr.  Gladstone 
in  the  Opera  Arcade  on  the  day  his  windows  were  broken  by 
a  few  blackguards  who  had  been  specially  hired  for  the  business. 
The  dark,  piercing  eyes  had  an  unusual  flash  in  them.  A  shower 
of  rain  was  falling  at  the  time,  and  the  great  leader  had  stopped 
a  moment  in  the  shelter  of  the  arcade.  He  had  no  umbrella. 
I  had  one,  and  as  I  was  at  the  door  of  my  club,  I  offered  it  to 


THE  ARIMY  CONTRACTOR  193 

him.  The  expression  of  his  face  softened  instantly,  and  he 
thanked  me  in  most  courteous  terms,  but  said  the  shower  was 
a  passing  one  and  that  he  did  not  need  any  protection  from  it. 

The  pretence  of  a  war  was  kept  up  until  the  Congress  met 
in  Berlin  in  the  middle  of  1878,  and  then  the  bubble  burst. 
The  whole  business  had  been  quietly  arranged  weeks  earlier 
between  the  high  contracting  parties. 

Amidst  the  knowledge  of  facts  gathered  in  these  years  at 
the  War  Office  few  impressed  me  more  strongly  than  the  power 
possessed  by  the  civil  side  of  stultifying  any  attempt  which 
military  officers  might  make  to  better  the  position,  or  improve 
the  efficiency,  of  the  men  in  the  ranks.  An  officer  in  the  GOth 
Rifles,  whom  I  had  known  in  Canada,  had  invented  a  very 
complete  and  highly  sensible  set  of  military  equipment,  belts, 
knapsack,  and  other  accoutrements,  which  was  very  much 
lighter  and  easier  to  put  on,  take  off,  or  carry  than  the  exist- 
ing equipment. 

This  officer  had  spent  his  little  all  in  bringing  the  new 
patterns  to  perfection.  Committees  and  Boards  had  reported 
most  favourably  upon  them.  Soldiers  upon  whom  they  were 
tried,  on  guard  and  on  the  march,  had  declared  them  to  be 
lighter,  easier  to  manipulate  and  to  wear  than  the  old  heavy, 
hard  things  our  infantry  soldiers  had  so  long  been  condemned 
to  carry.  Nevertheless,  no  progress  could  be  made  in  getting 
this  new  equipment  taken  into  general  use,  and  time  after  time 
the  unfortunate  designer  and  patentee  used  to  appear  at  the 
War  Office,  only  to  meet  with  the  same  negative  opposition. 
On  one  occasion  his  feelings  of  disappointment  so  overcame 
him  that  he  quite  broke  down.  I  then  found  where  lay  the 
source  of  this  dead-weight  opposition.  It  was  in  the  man  who 
held  the  contract  for  the  old  man-killing  stuff.  I  use  the  term 
'  man-kiUing  '  with  reason.  Many  a  time,  when  going  the  round 
of  some  mUitary  hospital,  as  I  have  already  related,  I  have 
asked  an  old  soldier  what  he  was  suffering  from.  '  Them  pains, 
sir,'  would  be  the  answer  ;  and  '  them  pains  '  were  ascribed, 
nine  times  out  of  ten,  to  the  wearing  for  twenty-four  consecu- 
tive hours  of  '  them  belts.' 

In  the  knowledge  that  I  was  thus  able  to  gain  of  the  power 
possessed  by  the  army  contractor  began  a  lifelong  effort  to 
expose  the  evils  of  the  contract  system  as  it  was  practised  and 


194    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

sustained  by  our  army  administrators  ;  but  it  was  only  towards 
the  close  of  a  long  military  career  that  I  was  able  to  deal  it 
one  good  crushing  blow,  and  though  my  own  knuckles  suffered, 
through  the  action  of  a  few  men  in  high  positions  who  suddenly 
stood  up  on  the  side  of  the  contractors,  I  never  grudged  the 
temporary  annoyance  their  interference  caused  me. 

In  the  sudden  mania  for  acquisition  which  Lord  Beaconsfield 
inaugurated  in  1875-76,  certain  measures  were  begun  m.  South 
Africa  and  in  India  which  soon  produced  their  various  fruits 
of  friction  and  strife.  In  September  1876  it  was  decided  that 
the  Transvaal  was  to  be  annexed.  I  don't  think  the  fuU  story 
of  that  event  is  known  to  many  people  now  living,  and  it  is 
sometimes  of  mterest  and  always  useful  that  events  from 
which  very  great  issues  came  should  be  traced  to  their  fountain- 
heads. 

I  had  returned  from  a  flying  visit  to  America  in  September 
1876  to  find  my  old  friend  and  companion,  Mr.  Theophilus 
Shepstone,  in  London.  He  had  been  summoned  home  from 
Natal  for  the  purpose  of  conferring  with  Lord  Carnarvon,  for 
whom  the  recent  failure  to  bring  about  the  confederation  of 
the  South  African  States  had  produced  new  conceptions  of 
policy  and  new  advisers  of  procedure.  When  I  met  Mr. 
Shepstone  he  entertamed  no  thought  of  a  speedy  return  to 
South  Africa,  and  I  looked  forward  to  the  opportunity  of 
meeting  him  frequently  in  London  during  the  autumn,  and 
having  many  more  of  those  conversations  and  discussions 
upon  South  African  questions  the  interest  of  which  I  have 
already  alluded  to  in  this  chapter.  He  had  arranged  to  dine 
with  me  on  a  certain  evening,  but  on  the  day  of  the  evening 
on  which  we  were  to  meet  I  received  a  telegram  from  him 
teUmg  me  that  it  had  been  suddenly  decided  he  was  to  return 
immediately  to  Natal,  and  that,  as  he  was  sailing  next  day, 
our  dinner  could  not  come  off.  A  day  or  two  later  a  battalion 
of  infantr}'',  then  in  Ireland,  was  ordered  to  prepare  for  early 
embarkation  for  the  Cape  of  Good  Hope.  Knowing  what  I 
knew  of  the  drift  of  things  generally  at  this  time,  I  put  both 
these  sudden  orders  together  without  any  difficultj^  The 
next  question  that  arose  was  as  to  the  port  to  which  the 
transport  taking  out  the  infantry  battalion  should  proceed 
in  South  Africa.     There  were  four  ports  possible — Cape  Town, 


SIGNIFICANT  EVENTS  195 

Port  Elizabeth,  East  London,  and  Durban.  No  decision  would 
be  given  on  this  point.  Meantime  the  troops  were  on  board, 
and  the  ship  was  ready  to  sail.  I  went  to  the  Colonial  Office 
to  point  out  the  necessity  of  a  speedy  decision,  in  order  to  save 
demurrage,  etc.  Still  no  decision  could  be  arrived  at.  I  then 
suggested  that  the  transport  should  sail,  and  call  for  orders 
at  St.  Vincent,  and  the  thing  that  struck  me  as  strangest  in 
the  matter  was  that  the  officials  with  whom  I  was  dealing 
were  at  that  time  unaware  that  there  was  a  cable  to  St.  Vincent 
by  means  of  which  it  would  be  possible  to  leave  the  matter 
of  destination  still  an  open  one  for  nine  or  ten  more  days. 

My  proposal  was  finally  sanctioned,  and  the  transport  sailed 
about  a  fortnight  or  three  weeks  after  the  departure  of  Mr. 
Shepstone  for  Natal. 

A  curious  thing  now  happened.  Both  the  mail  steamer 
carrying  'Mr.  Shepstone  and  the  transport  steamer  carrying 
the  reinforcements  were  wrecked  on  the  South  African  coast, 
forty  or  filty  miles  from  Cape  Town.  Thus  the  annexation  of 
the  Transvaal,  decided  upon  early  in  September  1876,  was 
delayed  by  untoward  events  some  months.  Mr.  Shepstone 
was  finally  able  to  proceed  to  the  Transvaal  in  December  1876. 

Sir  Bartle  Frere  went  out  as  High  Commissioner  in  March 
1877,  and  the  annexation  of  the  Transvaal  was  a  declared  and 
accomplished  fact  on  the  12th  April  in  the  same  year. 

These  httle  movements,  unknown  and  unnoticed  at  the 
moment  of  their  occurrence,  were  in  reahty  the  spring-heads 
of  the  stream  of  events  destined  to  plunge  South  Africa  into  a 
state  of  intermittent  war  for  twenty-six  years,  and  to  cost 
Great  Britain  a  sum  of  not  less  than  three  hundred  millions 
of  money  ;  and  to-day,  after  all  the  blood  spUt  and  the  treasure 
spent,  we  are  pretty  much  '  as  we  were  '  in  South  Africa. 

The  new  pohcy  soon  began  to  bear  fruit.  KafFraria  had 
been  annexed  by  stroke  of  pen,  and  the  Kaffirs  responded  by 
stroke  of  assegai.  Troops  were  sent  from  England  ;  the 
recalcitrant  natives  were  soon  hunted  out  of  their  patches  of 
bush  and  forest  near  King  William's  Town,  and  the  troops  were 
then  sent  northwards  to  Natal  for  purposes  the  scope  of  which 
the  Government  at  home  knew  very  little  about.  It  soon 
transpired  that  it  was  the  intention  of  Sir  Bartle  Frere  to 
break  the  power  of  the  Zulus  beyond  the  northern  boundary 


196     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

of  Natal.  The  time  seemed  to  him  to  be  opportmie.  Natal, 
which  up  to  this  period  had  only  seven  companies  of  mfantry 
to  its  garrison,  had  now  seven  battalions  within  its  Hmits. 
The  Lieutenant-Governor  of  Natal,  a  man  of  exceptional  sense 
and  foresight,  did  not  want  war,  but  his  views  were  set  aside. 
A  '  Bill  of  Indictment,'  as  it  was  called,  was  prepared  against 
the  Zulu  king,  Cetewayo.  The  usual  toll  of  cattle  was  de- 
manded from  him,  and,  before  time  was  allowed  for  the  collec- 
tion of  the  animals,  four  separate  columns  of  invasion  entered 
Zululand.  From  the  right  column  to  the  left  there  was  a 
distance  of  about  two  hundred  miles.  It  was  to  be  the  usual 
picnic  expedition.  '  There  wiU  be  no  fighting,"  people  said  in 
Natal.  '  The  Zulus  are  too  good-natured.  It  wiU  only  be  a 
walk  over.' 

It  was  in  the  month  of  November  1878  that  a  staff  officer 
of  high  position  at  the  Cape  came  to  my  office  in  Pall  Mall, 
and  in  a  few  words  sketched  the  situation  then  existing  in 
South  Africa.  '  There  was  absolute  peace  in  Zululand,'  he 
said.  '  The  difficulty  was  to  poke  Cetewayo  up  to  the  fighting 
point.'  When  I  heard  of  the  movement  in  four  separate  and 
far-apart  columns,  I  said  to  my  friend  :  '  It  may  fare  roughly 
for  one  of  the  pokers  ;  we  are  giving  Cetewayo  the  tongs.' 

In  the  last  days  of  the  year  I  left  England  to  spend  a  few 
weeks  with  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley  in  Cyprus.  We  had  occupied 
the  island  five  months  earlier  :  the  newspapers  were  still  full 
of  the  recent  acquisition,  the  visit  promised  many  points  of 
interest,  and  it  gave  more  than  the  promise.  During  three 
or  four  weeks  I  traversed  the  island  in  every  direction,  from 
Nicosia  to  Kyrenia  on  the  north  coast  to  the  top  of  snow-clad 
Troados  in  the  west,  and  to  Famagusta  in  the  extreme  east. 
I  had  been  a  stranger  to  the  East  since  leaving  Burmah  and 
India  fifteen  years  earher.  All  the  young  life  of  America 
and  the  black  life  of  Africa  had  since  been  my  companions, 
but  here  in  Cyprus  it  was  the  East  again,  the  East  with  the 
Turk  added  on  :  the  ragged  squalor,  the  breast  of  the  earth 
dried  up  and  desolate,  the  old  glory  of  Greek,  Roman,  Norman, 
and  Venetian  civilisation  lymg  in  dust  and  ashes  under  a  thing 
that  was  itself  a  dying  force  in  the  world. 

On  23rd  January  I  set  out  with  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley  and 
three  of  his  staff  from  Nicosia  to  Mount  Olympus,  to  find  a  site 


TO  THE  ZULU  WAR  197 

for  a  summer  camping-ground  in  the  pine  woods  on  the  south 
shoulder  of  the  mountain,  five  thousand  feet  above  sea-level. 
Day  had  just  broken.  As  we  rode  along  the  track  leading 
to  Peristerona,  the  conversation  ran  entirely  upon  the  war 
which  was  then  opening  in  Afghanistan.  What  bad  fortune 
it  was  that  the  chief  and  so  many  of  his  staff  officers  should  be 
hidden  away  in  this  dead  island  of  the  Levant,  when  so  much 
of  stirring  moment  in  the  outer  military  world  was  about  to 
open.  '  I  have  put  my  hand  to  the  Cypriote  plough  and  must 
hold  it  until  the  furrow  is  finished,'  was  the  chief's  summing 
up.  But,  at  the  moment  when  we  were  cantermg  along  the 
track  that  early  morning,  the  remnants  of  Lord  Chelmsford's 
main  column  of  invasion  were  moving  out  of  the  wrecked 
camps  at  Isandula  in  Zululand,  and  the  commotion  which 
was  to  follow  this  disaster  was  destined  to  move  us  all  to 
South  Africa  a  few  months  later.  For  mj^self  I  was  to  go  there 
almost  at  once.  I  returned  to  England  via  Trieste,  where 
the  news  of  the  massacre  at  Isandula  reached  me.  I  tele- 
graphed the  quartermaster-general  offering  my  services  for 
South  Africa,  and  two  days  later,  loth  February,  was  in 
London.  Two  regiments  of  cavalrj',  several  batteries  of 
artiUery,  and  eight  battalions  of  infantry  were  immediately 
put  in  orders  for  Natal,  and  on  the  28th  February  I  sailed 
from  Southampton  in  the  ss.  Egypt,  bound  for  the  same 
destination. 


CHAPTER  XIII 

Assistant  Adjutant-General  in  Natal.  Death  of  the  Prince  Imperial. 
Advance  into  Zululand,  Ulundi.  Transports  for  England.  Imprison- 
ment of  Cetewayo.     St.  Helena  again. 

I  WAS  again  in  Natal.  Three  and  a  half  years  had  passed 
since  I  had  left  the  colony  in  profound  peace  :  it  was  now 
seething  in  strife.  Of  the  four  original  columns  of  invasion, 
the  principal  one  had  been  cut  in  pieces  at  Isandula  ;  the 
action  of  the  remainder  had  been  paralysed.  That  next  the 
coast  had  entrenched  itself  at  Etchowe  ;  all  its  transport  had 
been  taken  by  the  Zulus.  The  northern  column,  under  Colonel 
Wood  and  Major  Redvers  BuUer,  had  been  alone  able  to  move 
out  of  its  fortified  position  at  Kambula  ;  but  the  mounted 
portion  of  the  force  had  just  suffered  very  severely  at  a  place 
named  Zlobane  in  Northern  Zululand,  and,  although  the 
columns  had  been  able  to  defeat  the  attack  of  a  Zulu  '  impi ' 
on  the  day  following  the  disaster  at  Zlobane,  it  was  no  longer 
a  mobile  entity.  News  of  these  events  reached  us  at  Cape 
Town,  and  when  we  got  to  Durban  Lord  Chelmsford  had  just 
succeeded  in  effecting  the  relief  of  the  garrison  at  Etchowe 
which  had  been  brought  back  within  Natal.  So  that,  of  the 
original  plan  of  campaign,  there  only  remamed  Colonel  Wood's 
column  upon  the  soil  of  Zululand. 

The  state  of  confusion  existing  within  Natal  could  scarcely 
be  exaggerated.  To  the  extreme  of  over-confidence  which 
had,  indeed,  been  the  primary  factor  in  the  disaster  of  Isandula, 
had  succeeded  the  dread  of  a  Zulu  invasion.  You  will  usually 
find  that  the  term  '  picnic  '  at  the  rising  of  the  curtain  upon 
one  of  these  little  wars  is  readily  changed  to  '  panic  '  before  the 
conclusion  of  the  first  act.  The  reinforcements  now  pouring 
into  Natal  reassured  public  opinion,  which  had  grown  over- 
excited at  the  report  of  a  native  Natal  woman  living  in  Zulu- 
land,  who  had  come  down  to  the  Musinga  Drift  to  tell  her 
father  what  the  Zulu  soldiers  were  saying  to  Cetewayo  :   '  The 

198 


WITH  SIR  HENRY  CLIFFORD,  V.C.  199 

English  are  now  afraid  to  meet  us  in  the  open  ;  they  are  lying 
behind  stone  walls.  Let  us  raid  into  Natal/  No  doubt  it 
would  have  been  possible  for  detached  parties  of  Zulus  to 
carry  into  effect  this  idea,  had  their  king  been  inclined  to 
accede  to  the  wishes  of  his  soldiers  ;  but  he  would  not  sanction 
it.  All  through  this  time  he  never  abandoned  his  old  belief 
that  he  was  the  friend  of  the  English,  and  their  ally  against 
the  Dutch  ;  and  he  clung  to  the  promises  made  him  by  the 
Government  of  Natal  through  Mr.  Shepstone  at  the  time  of 
his  coronation,  all  of  which  were  now  forgotten.  '  Ah,  Shep- 
stone !  '  he  is  said  to  have  frequently  exclaimed  at  this  time, 
'  why  have  you  grown  tired  of  carrying  me  on  your  back  ?  ' 

The  staff  billet  to  which  I  was  appointed  was  that  of  assistant 
adjutant-general  under  the  general  commanding  the  base  and 
lines  of  communication — Major-General  Sir  Henry  Clifford,  V.C. 
Of  him  I  shall  say  at  once  that  among  all  the  generals  I 
have  been  brought  into  contact  with,  none  possessed  a  per- 
Bonality  more  lovable,  none  had  a  higher  courage,  a  larger 
sense  of  public  duty,  or  a  greater  aptitude  for  untiring  toil. 
The  endless  labours  of  his  office  during  the  ten  months  in 
Natal  that  were  now  beginning  broke  down  the  health  and 
sapped  the  great  physical  strength  of  an  exceptionally  strong 
man  ;  and  he  returned  from  South  Africa,  a  year  later,  only 
to  die. 

For  some  weeks  after  landing,  he  and  I  worked  together  in 
a  stifling  little  office  in  Durban,  the  corrugated  iron  roof  of 
which  in  the  semi-tropical  climate  of  the  coast  made  the 
temperature  almost  insupportable  in  the  afternoons.  After 
a  while.  General  Clifford  moved  to  Maritzburg,  and  I  was  alone 
in  the  Durban  office.  It  was  a  strange  life  at  first.  I  lived, 
worked,  ate,  and  slept  in  that  office.  For  weeks  there  was  no 
respite  from  work.  Troops  were  pouring  in  and  moving  on 
up  country  ;  demands  for  every  article  in  the  long  catalogue 
of  modern  war  equipment  for  transport — remounts,  medical 
stores,  camp  equipment,  clothing,  ammunition,  and  fifty  other 
things — were  incessant. 

War  brings  all  the  fantastic  idiosyncrasies  of  human  nature 
to  the  surface.  Men  will  rob  and  pillage  and  rape  and  burn 
in  war  who  would  have  lived  very  passable  and  decent  lives 
in  peace.     Many  of  them  think  that  it  is  part  of  the  business  ; 


200    SIR  WILLIMI  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

and,  of  course,  the  meaner  and  more  sordid  the  war  is,  the 
more  that  part  of  the  programme  becomes  possible. 

I  have  seen,  even  at  a  peaceful  railway  station  in  England, 
a  plethoric  captain  of  Volunteers,  proceeding  to  his  summer 
camp  in  uniform,  begin  to  leer  and  ogle  at  the  passing  female 
sex  generally,  who,  had  he  been  in  his  usual  dress  and  at  his 
daily  business  vocations,  would  have  been  the  picture  of 
decorous  provincial  family  respectability. 

Our  work  at  the  base  of  operations  was  largely  added  to 
by  the  shipwreck  at  Cape  Agulhas  of  a  transport  carrying  a 
vast  amount  of  army  stores — saddles,  boots,  harness,  and  other 
things.  These  had  to  be  replaced,  as  far  as  they  possibly  could, 
by  local  purchase  ;  and  the  merchants  of  Durban  and  Maritz- 
burg  soon  amassed  fortunes  by  selling  their  indifferent  wares 
at  fancy  prices.  Part  of  my  work  was  to  sanction  those 
purchases  :  they  covered  everything  from  anchors  to  needles. 
Of  course  we  were  robbed  right  and  left,  despite  our  work 
of  day  and  night.  Sometimes  I  caught  the  thief  ;  but  oftener 
he  escaped  scot-free.  Nature  blessed  me  with  a  good  memory, 
and  I  could  recollect  fairly  weU  the  description,  at  least,  of 
the  articles  the  purchase  of  which  I  had  previously  sanctioned  : 
so,  when  the  passing  of  the  bills  came,  I  was  able,  generally 
speaking,  to  remember  whether  I  had  approved  the  purchase 
in  the  first  instance,  or  not. 

One  night  I  was  going  through  these  monotonous  files,  when 
my  eye  fell  upon  an  entry — '  One  water-cart,  £25.'  I  was 
morally  certain  that  I  had  not  given  sanction  for  the  buying 
of  this  article.  The  official  was  ordered  to  produce  it.  It 
was  not  to  be  found  in  any  of  our  numerous  storehouses  ;  and 
at  last,  after  searching  inquiries,  it  was  discovered  that  no 
such  article  had  been  bought  ;  that  the  nearest  approach  to 
it  had  been  a  water-can,  price  5s.,  and  that  an  ingenious  under- 
strapper in  the  Ordnance  Office  had  changed  the  words  *  water- 
can  '  into  '  water-cart,'  and  made  the  5s.  in  the  figure  column 
into  £25.  This,  however,  was  the  merest  trifle  in  the  account 
of  our  losses.  We  had  sent  men  out  to  buy  horses  in  every 
direction.  One  unfortunate  man  was  purchasing  animals  in 
the  Orange  Free  State  :  he  had  forded  a  '  drift '  easily  in  the 
mornmg,  made  many  purchases  in  the  day,  and  came  to  the 
drift  again  in  the  evening.     Rain  was  falling  ;    the  water  was 


AN  HISTORIC  TRAGEDY  201 

running  breast  deep  ;  his  horse  missed  his  footing  ;  rider  and 
horse  were  carried  into  deep  water,  and  the  man  was  drowned. 
When  his  body  was  recovered,  it  was  found  to  have  on  it 
a  leather  belt  full  of  gold  pieces,  more  than  three  hundred  in 
number.  These  represented  exactly  ten  per  cent,  on  the  pur- 
chases of  horseflesh  made  that  day.  It  was  their  weight  that 
had  caused  him  to  sink  like  a  stone. 

Shortly  after  landing,  I  visited  Maritzburg  on  business. 
The  troops  were  now  moving  up  country.  Lord  Chelmsford 
was  also  going  forward.  I  met,  in  the  Httle  Government 
House  in  Maritzburg  so  well  known  to  me  three  years  earUer, 
the  Prince  Imperial,  at  this  time  a  visitor  with  the  Governor, 
Sir  Henry  Bulwer.  We  had  a  long  conversation  :  he  had 
many  questions  to  ask  about  the  Zulus,  the  up  country  for 
which  he  was  about  to  start,  the  climate,  horses,  arms,  equip- 
ment, everything.  '  Although  he  was  an  artillery  officer,"  he 
said,  '  he  preferred  to  be  as  he  was  now,  attached  to  the  staff. 
He  might  thus  be  able  to  get  in  closer  touch  of  the  Zulu  enemy 
than  if  he  remained  with  a  battery  of  artUlery.'  Within  one 
month  of  the  day  upon  which  we  thus  spoke,  this  splendid  young 
soldier — handsome,  active,  brave  to  a  fault,  the  very  soul  of 
chivalrous  honour,  and  yet  withal  of  a  singular  grace  and 
gentleness — fell  fighting,  deserted  and  left  alone  by  his  escort, 
one  against  twenty  of  this  same  Zulu  enemy.  The  manner 
in  which  this  news  came  to  us  in  Durban  was  singular.  I  had 
a  single  Zulu  to  look  after  my  few  wants  in  the  office  which 
was  now  my  home.  Every  morning  he  entered  the  room,  set 
the  bath  on  the  floor,  and  went  out  as  silently  as  he  had  come 
in  ;  but  on  the  morning  of  3rd  June  he  spoke  a  few  words  : 
'  A  big  "  inkoos  "  had  been  kiUed.'  Later  that  day  or  the 
next  came  the  details  of  that  wretched  tragedy  in  which  so 
many  things  besides  Hfe  had  been  lost. 

Ten  days  later,  the  body  of  the  Prince  Imperial  was  brought 
to  Durban  to  be  embarked  on  board  a  ship-of-war  for  England. 
I  think  that  the  scene  as  the  funeral  cortege  wound  down  the 
Berea  Hill  towards  Durban  was  the  saddest  but  the  most 
impressive  sight  I  had  ever  witnessed.  It  was  the  sunset  hour  ; 
the  eastern  slope  of  the  Berea  was  in  shadow,  but  the  town 
beneath,  the  ships  in  the  roadstead,  and  the  deep  blue  Indian 
Ocean  beyond  the  white  line  of  shore  were  aU  in  dazzhng  hght. 


202    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

The  regiments  that  had  gone  up  countrj^  had  left  their  bands 
on  the  coast,  and,  one  after  the  other,  these  took  up  the  great 
March  of  the  Dead,  until  the  twilight,  moving  eastward  towards 
the  sea,  seemed  to  be  marching  with  us  as  we  went.  Night 
had  all  but  closed  when  we  carried  the  coffin  into  the  little 
Catholic  church  at  the  base  of  the  Berea  HiU. 

I  could  not  get  any  money  from  the  State  or  from  the  Colony, 
but  the  people  of  Durban  readily  answered  my  appeal ;  and, 
though  we  had  only  twenty-four  hours'  notice,  the  church  was 
entirely  hung  in  black  cloth,  violets  were  in  profusion,  and 
many  wax  lights  stood  around  the  violet-covered  bier  upon 
which  the  coffin  lay.  A  few  French  nuns  prayed  by  the  dead, 
relievmg  each  other  at  intervals  through  the  night.  As  the 
cortege,  followed  by  the  mourners,  came  slowly  down  the  hill, 
I  heard  from  the  groom  who  led  the  prince's  charger  the 
particulars  of  the  final  scene — so  far  as  it  had  been  possible 
to  put  them  together  at  that  time,  for  none  save  the  Zulu 
enemy  had  witnessed  the  last  desperate  struggle.  But  the 
servant  had  seen  his  master's  body,  and  that  bore  a  tribute  to 
the  dead  man's  courage  more  eloquent  than  had  thousands 
acclaimed  the  last  struggle,  not  for  life — that  was  hopeless 
— but  for  honour.  There  were  twenty-six  assegai  wounds,  all 
in  front  of  the  body  ;  the  high  riding-boots  were  found  filled 
with  blood — so  long  and  so  firmly  had  the  boy  stood  under  the 
rain  of  spears  ;  for  though  there  were  eighteen  or  twenty 
Zulus  facing  that  single  figure,  they  dared  not  close  with  him 
while  he  stood.  The  scene  of  the  fight  was  a  long,  shallow, 
sloping  valley  between  hills  ;  a  Zulu  kraal  was  close  at  hand, 
with  patches  of  mealies  around  it  ;  then  came  a  donga,  with 
grass  growing  high  in  places  near  it,  and  a  spot  of  bare  ground 
by  the  edge  of  the  donga  (a  dry  watercourse)  where  the  body 
was  found  lying.  Some  of  the  Zulus  carried  guns  :  they  had 
stolen  up  through  the  mealie  gardens  and  fired  a  volley  at  the 
party,  who  were  in  the  act  of  mounting  their  horses.  The 
captain  of  the  escort  galloped  away,  followed  by  his  men  in 
a  general  stampede.  The  prince  must  have  been  still  dis- 
mounted when  they  ran,  for  his  grey  charger  was  found  with 
the  holster  cover  torn  off,  as  though  the  prince  had  caught  it 
in  the  act  of  mounting.  The  horse  was  restive  at  mounting 
at  all  times  ;  and  in  the  confusion  of  the  shots  and  the  galloping 


THE  CLOSING  SCENE  203 

away  of  the  escort,  it  would  have  been  more  difficult  than  ever 
to  gain  the  saddle.  But  the  groom  was  certain  that  if  the 
holster  flap  had  been  of  good  leather  the  prince  would  have 
been  able  to  mount,  for  he  was  of  extraordinary  activity  in 
all  matters  of  the  riding-school,  and  could  vault  from  the 
ground  on  to  the  back  of  any  horse.  The  man's  statement  of 
opinion  found  corroboration  in  an  incident  which  occurred  a 
month  before  this  time.  It  was  thus  described  in  one  of  the 
Natal  newspapers  : — 

'  As  time  rolls  on,  the  death  of  the  Prince  Imperial  loses  none  of 
its  melancholy  significance,  and  no  doubt  many  an  iacident  of  his 
brief  stay  here  will,  sooner  or  later,  come  to  light.  One  in  particular 
may  be  mentioned.  When  at  the  Royal  Hotel,  the  prince  asked  Mr. 
Doig  to  show  him  his  horses.  At  the  Crown  stables  there  was  a 
wild  young  horse  which  had  just  thrown  one  of  the  stable  hands. 
The  prince,  without  the  aid  of  stirrups,  vaulted  into  the  saddle, 
and  although  the  horse  bolted  away  and  made  every  endeavour  to 
throw  him,  he  brought  him  safely  back  to  the  stable,  and  dropped 
from  the  saddle  with  a  most  extreme  nonchalance.  The  horse  has 
since  thrown  another  rider  and  broken  his  leg.' 

The  next  morning  we  all  assembled  again  at  the  little  church, 
where  an  old  French  priest  said  a  requiem  Mass.  Then  we 
carried  the  coffin  to  the  hearse,  and  the  long  procession  passed 
through  the  town  to  the  wharf  at  the  Point,  two  miles  distant, 
with  the  same  solemn  parade  as  on  the  previous  evening.  At 
the  wharf  the  coffin  was  handed  over  to  the  naval  authorities, 
and  taken  to  the  flagship  in  the  outer  roadstead. 

In  her  strangely  sad  history  South  Africa  has  seen  many 
sad  sights,  but  none  so  sad  as  this  one. 

I  am  writing  to-day  thirty  years  after  that  terrible  tragedy 
occurred.  Three  years  ago  I  visited  the  scene  where  it 
happened  ;  walked  the  ground  by  the  fatal  dongas,  and  stood 
by  the  cross  which  Queen  Victoria  caused  to  be  erected  on  the 
spot  where  the  body  was  found  the  day  following  the  death 
of  the  prince.  Nothing  has  changed  in  the  valley  of  the 
Ityotyozi.  A  few  Zulu  kraals  are  there  still ;  the  dry  dongas 
may  have  worn  a  little  deeper  ;  but  the  long  yellow  grass  is 
waving  there,  and  the  mealie  patches  ;  and  the  big  dark  slate- 
coloured  hills  slope  up  on  west  and  south,  and  the  deep  dry 


204    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

channel  of  the  Ityotyozi  curves  away  toward  the  north-east, 
the  highest  tributary  of  the  White  Umvolosi  River. 

No  man  wiU  ever  pierce  the  *  Might  have  been  '  of  history. 
Fourteen  years  after  the  death  of  the  Prmce  Imperial,  I  met 
in  the  Mediterranean  a  distinguished  admiral  in  the  French 
navj^  and  we  spoke  of  that  day  in  Zululand.  '  If  the  Prince 
were  alive  to-day/  he  said,  '  he  would  without  any  doubt  be 
Emperor  of  the  French,  The  French  people  would  have 
hailed  him  as  their  chief.' 

I  have  spoken  of  the  chaos  which  reigned  in  Natal  following 
up  the  disaster  at  Isandula.  To  that  chaos,  to  that  general 
scramble  of  direction,  to  the  absence  of  any  real  thmking  or 
governing  power  running  through  aU  the  army  staff  machinery 
of  the  time  must,  in  the  first  and  leading  sense,  be  attributed 
the  death  of  the  Prince  Imperial.  As  usual  in  our  history, 
the  men  who  were  first  at  fault  got  off,  and  the  unhappy 
subordinate  actor  m  the  tragedy  was  immolated.  There  was 
no  excuse  for  the  conduct  of  the  captain  of  the  escort  and 
his  miserable  scratch  following  of  six  makeshift  troopers  ; 
but  neither  was  there  any  excuse  for  the  general  in  command 
of  the  army,  nor  the  staff  officers  whose  duty  it  was  to  see 
that  this  young  French  prince,  a  volunteer  to  us  in  this  war 
and  engaged  in  doing  our  duty  for  the  moment,  should  not 
be  allowed  to  go  out  into  an  enemj^'s  countrj''  without  full 
and  proper  escort,  and  under  the  eye  and  command  of  an  old 
and  experienced  mounted  officer.  ^Vhat  were  these  people 
thinking  of  when  they  allowed  that  wretched  party  to  go  nine 
or  ten  miles  from  camp  straight  into  a  land  full  of  armed  and 
lurking  enemies  ?  Four  months  before  this  time,  an  entire 
British  regiment  and  four  or  five  hundred  other  troops,  artillery 
and  cavalry,  had  been  assegaied  to  a  man  at  a  place  within  a 
day's  easy  ridhig  distance  of,  and  twenty  miles  nearer  to  our 
frontier  than,  this  valley  of  the  Prince  Imperial's  death. 

It  was  afterwards  said  by  way  of  excuse  that  the  prince  was 
brave  to  rashness,  and  that  it  was  his  reckless  daring  which 
led  to  his  death.  What  an  excuse  !  making  the  fault  of  those 
who  were  responsible  for  the  escort  and  its  leadership  only 
more  glaringly  apparent.  It  is  all  a  horrible  black  night  of 
disaster,  with  a  solitary  star  of  one  man's  glorious  courage 
shining  through  it. 


A  SOLDIER'S  PRAYER  205 

When  they  came  to  look  over  the  poor  boy's  papers,  they 
found  among  them  a  written  prayer  ;  these  sentences  were 
in  it  : — 

'  My  God,  I  give  Thee  my  heart ;  but  give  me  faith.  To  pray 
is  the  longing  of  my  soul.  I  pray  not  that  Thou  shouldst  take 
away  the  obstacles  on  my  path  ;  but  that  Thou  mayst  permit  me 
to  overcome  them.  I  pray  not  that  Thou  shouldst  disarm  my 
enemies  ;  but  that  Thou  shouldst  aid  me  to  conquer  myself.  .  .  . 
If  Thou  only  givest  on  this  earth  a  certain  sum  of  joy,  take,  0  God, 
my  share  and  bestow  it  on  the  most  worthy.  ...  If  thou  seekest 
vengeance  upon  man,  strike  me.  Misfortune  is  converted  into 
happiuess  by  the  sweet  thought  that  those  whom  we  love  are  happy  ; 
and  happiness  is  poisoned  by  the  bitter  thought  that,  while  I  rejoice, 
those  whom  I  love  a  thousand  times  better  than  myself  are  suffering. 
For  me,  0  God,  no  more  happiness  :  take  it  from  my  path.  If  I 
forget  those  who  are  no  more  I  shall  be  forgotten  in  my  turn  ;  and 
how  sad  is  the  thought  which  makes  one  say,  "  Time  effaces  all  "  ! 
.  .  .  O  my  God,  show  me  ever  where  my  duty  Hes,  and  give  me 
strength  to  accomphsh  it.  .  .  .  Grant,  0  God,  that  my  heart  may 
be  penetrated  with  the  conviction  that  those  whom  I  love,  and 
who  are  dead,  shall  see  all  my  actions  ;  that  my  hfe  shall  be  worthy 
of  their  -witness,  and  my  innermost  thoughts  siiall  never  make  them 
blush.' 

Reading  these  sentences,  one  seems  to  lift  a  corner  of  the 
veil  that  hangs  between  man  and  the  Face  of  the  Inscrutable. 
Happily  for  those  who  have  to  work  in  war,  there  is  stiU  time 
left  for  thinking. 

A  few  days  after  the  close  of  this  sad  chapter,  the  telegrams 
from  England  via  St.  Vincent  announced  that  Sir  Garnet 
Wolseley  was  coming  out  to  reheve  Lord  Chelmsford  of  his 
command.  '  The  cloud  of  misfortune  seems  ever  to  overhang 
this  miserable  and  luckless  war,'  thus  wrote  Archibald  Forbes, 
from  Camp  Itelezi  Hill  on  the  night  of  Whitsunday.  It  was 
true.  But  there  was  more  than  misfortune  in  all  that  had 
happened  :  things  were  done  that  read  to-day  as  beyond 
possibiUty  of  credence.  The  advance  into  Zululand  was  made 
in  two  columns — one  entering  by  Landmarm's  Drift  over  the 
Bufifalo  River  ;  the  other  by  the  coast -road  from  Durban  over 
the  Tugela  to  Port  Durnford.  This  latter  force,  consisting 
of  two  brigades  of  British  infantry  and  cavalry  and  artillery, 


206    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

had  now  been  creeping  slowly  forward,  with  many  halts  between 
the  creeps,  for  about  six  weeks.  It  was  now  halted  at  Port 
Durnford.  Of  certain  officers  many  stories  were  current,  and 
numerous  were  the  epigrams  and  lampoons  which  the  Natal 
newspapers  indulged  m  at  the  time. 

A  letter  written  by  a  staff  officer  of  high  place  early  in  July 
speaks  of  a  general  '  moving,  at  a  time  when  transport  is  above 
all  things  precious,  with  a  waggon  fitted  as  a  movable  hen-house, 
with  coops  and  places  for  hens  to  lay  so  that  he  may  always 
be  sure  of  his  fresh  eggs  for  breakfast.  He  dresses  or  did  dress 
(I  fancy  Sir  Garnet  has  altered  matters)  in  the  most  absurd 
costume,  with  a  sombrero  hat  and  a  long  pheasant's  feather, 
and  an  imitation  puggaree  tied  in  what  he  considers  a  pic- 
turesque and  artistic  carelessness  on  one  side.     He  telegraphed 

to  for  six  milch  cows  among  other  supplies  ;    but  , 

while  meeting  all  his  other  demands,  telegraphed  back,  "  Must 
draw  the  line  at  milch  cows."  '  Describing  the  appearance  of 
the  streets  in  Durban,  the  same  writer  says  :  '  The  streets  are 
full  of  all  sorts  of  military  and  naval  types  ;  the  wonderful 
number  of  straps  and  dodges  that  some  of  them  have  about 
them  is  a  sight,  and  every  one  seems  to  try  how  many  odds 

and  ends  he  can  carry  about  him.     Y is  said  to  beat  every 

one  ;  a  man  describing  him  to  me  said,  "  He  only  wanted  a 
few  candles  stuck  about  him  to  make  a  Christmas  tree  \  "  ' 
These  descriptions  are  in  no  way  exaggerated.  They  might, 
indeed,  be  amphfied  and  yet  be  within  the  truth.  What  is 
there  in  the  air  or  soil  of  Africa  which  seems  to  unlevel  the 
heads  of  so  many  newcomers  in  that  part  of  the  world  ?  Truly, 
a  master-spirit  was  wanted  here. 

Sir  Garnet  Wolseley  reached  Durban  on  the  28th  June. 
He  landed  early  ;  rode  round  the  camps,  hospitals,  and  store- 
houses ;  had  breakfast,  and  started  by  train  for  Botha's  Hill 
and  Maritzburg,  where  he  was  sworn  in.  He  was  back  in 
Durban  the  next  day  ;  went  on  board  a  man-of-war,  and 
sailed  for  Port  Durnford — intending  to  land  there,  pick  up 
the  Coast  Column,  and  move  with  it  at  once  towards  the  King's 
Kraal  at  Ulundi.  But  now  South  Africa  came  into  play. 
The  violence  of  the  surf  made  landing  impossible  at  Durnford  ; 
Sir  Garnet  and  his  staff  were  obliged  to  return  to  Durban.  I 
had  horses  and  waggonettes  ready  for  them,  and  they  left  for 


ABSENCE  OF  THINKING  FACULTY  IN  ARIVIY    207 

Port  Durnford  by  land.  Through  these  various  contretemps 
six  days  had  been  lost.  Meanwhile,  on  4th  July  the  action 
at  Ulundi  was  fought,  and  the  Zulu  War  was  practically  over. 

It  was  fuU  time  ;  it  had  lasted  eight  months,  and  was  costing 
one  million  pounds  each  month.  A  war  with  the  Zulus,  if 
properly  planned  and  carried  out,  meant  from  its  beginning 
what  it  was  found  to  mean  at  its  end — just  thirty  minutes' 
fighting.  The  arms  of  an  enemy,  and  his  methods  of  using 
them,  are  the  chief  factors  which  should  dictate  to  a  general 
the  disposal  of  his  forces,  and  his  fighting  tactics.  The  Zulus 
were  armed  with  assegais  ;  they  did  not  fight  at  night  ;  they 
charged  home  in  dense  masses  in  open  daylight ;  they  had 
neither  artillery  nor  cavalry.  Eight  good  infantry  battahons, 
two  regiments  of  hght  cavalry,  three  field  batteries,  and  three 
hundred  native  Basuto  scouts  would  have  been  amply  sufficient 
to  do  in  seven  weeks  what  at  least  twice  that  number  of  men, 
guns,  and  horses  succeeded  in  accomplishing,  after  defeats  and 
disasters,  m  the  same  number  of  months. 

As  I  look  back  over  forty-seven  years  of  service,  the  thing 
that  astonishes  me  most  is  the  entire  absence  of  the  think- 
ing faculty  in  nine  out  of  ten  of  the  higher-grade  officers 
with  whom  I  was  associated.  AVhat  obtained  at  Aldershot 
was  made  the  rule  throughout  the  world — from  Greenland's 
icy  mountains  to  India's  coral  strand.  It  was  not  Caesar, 
most  imaginative  of  tacticians,  who  was  the  teacher  :  it  was 
his  so-called  camp  over  the  Long  Valley,  with  the  Basingstoke 
Canal  at  the  end  of  it,  and  the  site  for  the  luncheon  bej^ond  that 
again,  which  set  the  lesson  of  the  tactical  apphcation  of  the 
three  arms,  and  often  gave  the  key  to  victory.  I  knew  of  one 
very  successful  leader  at  Aldershot  who  regulated  the  move- 
ments of  his  brigade  by  the  direction  which  the  refreshment 
carts  took  in  the  commencement  of  the  fray.  They  were 
supposed  to  be  under  a  sort  of  h}^notic  inspiration  from  the 
mind  of  the  garrison  sergeant-major  as  to  the  point  at  which 
victory  would  declare  itself,  and  the  battle  would  terminate  at 
1.30  P.M. 

While  the  new  commander-in-chief  in  Zululand  had  now  to 
proceed  with  the  final  phases  of  the  capture  of  Cetewayo,  and 
the  settlement  of  Zululand,  we  at  the  Base  and  on  the  Line  of 
Communications  had  to  prepare  and  carry  out  the  embarkation 


208     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

of  more  than  half  the  army,  and  quite  two-thirds  of  its  late 
generals  and  their  staff. 

Some  of  the  battahons  and  batteries  had  been  a  long  time 
up  country,  and  very  large  arrears  of  pay  were  due  to  them, 
as  well  as  to  the  very  numerous  irregular  corps  which  had  been 
recruited  for  service  after  the  disaster  at  Isandula.  It  would 
be  difficult  to  imagine  anythmg  more  irregular  than  the  majority 
of  the  rank  and  file  of  these  latter  bodies  :  the  Turkish  title, 
Bashibazouk,  seems  alone  suited  in  its  sound  adequately  to 
describe  them.  Their  regimental  titles  were  also  suggestive 
in  many  instances  of  the  general  trend  and  direction  of  their 
disciplme  and  methods — Sham-buckers'  Horse,  Raafs'  Rangers, 
the  Buffalo  Border  Guards,  etc.,  etc. 

To  pay  off,  disarm,  and  embark  those  worthies  was  a  work 
requiring  some  little  tact  and  method  on  the  part  of  the 
officers  who  had  to  deal  with  them  under  their  respective 
heads.  These  various  units  of  raffish  swashbucklers  now 
came  to  the  port  of  embarkation  to  be  paid  their  reckonings 
and  to  pay  them  again  into  innumerable  pubhc-houses  of 
Durban.  I  devised  many  plans  by  which  the  evil  might  be 
lessened.  Sometimes  I  put  a  pay  officer  and  his  paysheet, 
with  a  good  guard  of  regulars,  on  board  a  transport  in  the 
outer  anchorage,  and  informed  the  men  that  they  would  onl}?- 
be  paid  on  board  ship.  Another  plan  was  to  encamp  the 
corps  six  or  eight  miles  out  of  Durban,  in  the  vicinity  of  a 
railway  station,  by  means  of  which  they  could  be  fed  and 
supplied  from  the  port.  The  scenes  which  were  daily  taking 
place  were  often  of  a  very  ludicrous  description.  A  battalion 
of  infantry,  to  whom  some  five  or  six  thousand  pounds  had 
to  be  paid,  would  reach  the  wharf  for  embarkation,  having  been 
made  the  recipients  on  the  march  through  Durban  of  a  public 
luncheon  and  innumerable  quantities  of  large  water  melons — 
the  latter  a  most  innocuous  fruit  on  any  ordinary  occasion, 
but  somewhat  embarrassing  when  presented  to  a  man  after 
a  hearty  meal  and  many  libations  en  route.  I  had  prepared, 
however,  for  the  dangers  of  the  embarkation  from  the  wharf 
in  the  large  flat  boats,  and  a  dozen  steady  men  with  boathooks 
stood  ready  to  gaff  the  men  who  feU  into  the  water — a  pre- 
caution which  bore  fruit  in  more  senses  than  one,  for  many 
of  the  men  deemed  it  a  point  of  honour  to  hold  on  by  their 


LUNATICS  AT  LARGE  209 

water  melons  even  when  they  were  in  the  sea.  The  acme 
of  confusion  was,  however,  reached  on  the  occasion  when  some 
eighteen  hundred  '  details,'  prisoners,  '  insanes,'  sick,  and 
absentees  from  previous  embarkations  had  to  be  put  upon  a 
troopship  in  the  outer  anchorage. 

At  the  last  moment  a  train  had  arrived  from  Maritzburg 
with  six  '  insanes  '  for  shipment  to  England.  The  transport 
was  still  m  the  roadstead,  so  a  boat  was  sent  out  to  her.  The 
corporal  in  charge  had  just  time  to  run  up  the  gangway  with 
his  charge  ;  the  anchor  was  already  up.  On  reaching  the 
quarterdeck,  crowded  with  eighteen  hundred  men,  the  six 
'  insanes  '  saw  their  chance,  and  while  the  corporal  was  handing 
his  papers  to  the  staff  officer  on  board  they  adroitly  dispersed 
themselves  among  the  miscellaneous  crowd  of  men  thronging 
the  decks.  Identification  was  entirely  impossible  in  that 
mixed  crowd  :  the  corporal  had  to  get  back  to  his  escort  in 
the  boat  as  quickly  as  possible,  and  the  big  troopship  moved 
off  to  shake  her  motley  collection  of  men  into  that  subsidence 
which  only  grows  more  complete  as  the  sea  grows  more  restless. 
But  the  hour  came  when  the  staff  officer  asked  the  sergeant 
of  the  guard,  '  Where  are  the  six  insanes  ?  '  No  man  on  board 
could  say  where  ;  and  soon  the  rumour  passed  from  deck  to 
deck  that  there  were  six  madmen  at  large  among  the  troops. 
Every  man  began  to  take  a  strange  interest  in  his  neighbour. 
'  And  who  is  thy  neighbour  ?  '  asks  the  catechism.  '  Mankind 
of  every  description  '  is  the  answer,  so  far  as  I  can  recollect 
it  over  the  lapse  of  years.  But  surely  that  reverend  and 
estimable  namesake  of  mine,  when  he  penned  that  question  and 
answer,  can  never  have  contemplated  a  contingency^  such  as 
this  crowded  troopship,  with  twenty  different  corps  repre- 
sented in  its  human  freight,  and  at  least  two  unknown  madmen 
at  large  upon  every  deck  !  And  yet  never  could  there  have 
been  a  time  when  men  regarded  their  neighbour  with  more 
lively  interest.  A  council  of  the  leading  authorities  on  ship- 
board was  rapidly  assembled,  and  a  course  of  action  decided 
upon.  Practically  it  came  to  this,  that  the  whole  mass  of 
military  was  placed  under  observation  ;  a  select  corps  of 
observers  was  organised,  and  the  work  began.  Any  man 
who  was  sitting  apart  in  the  anticipatory  stages,  or  after  effects, 
of  sea-sickness  found  himself  walked  round  and  suspiciously 

o 


210    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

regarded  ;  at  frequent  intervals  a  man  would  be  tapped  on 
the  shoulder  and  told  to  come  before  the  doctor.  When  the 
vessel  reached  Cape  Town  there  were  twenty-six  men  under 
observation,  and  it  was  afterwards  found  that  not  one  of  the 
six  '  insanes  '  was  among  them.  A  curious  thing  now  hap- 
pened :  after  a  while,  some  sergeant  or  corporal,  more  observant 
than  his  comrades,  remarked  that  there  were  certain  men  in 
the  crowd  who  were  ready  on  all  occasions  to  lend  a  hand 
in  running  in  the  suspected  ones,  first  to  the  doctor  and  after- 
wards to  the  '  observation  '  hold.  The  eagerness  and  alacrity 
of  these  few  men  attracted  first  praise  and  then  suspicion. 
There  was  an  expression  of  self-satisfaction  on  their  features 
which  was  peculiar  to  them  alone  among  those  whose  duty 
it  was  to  discover  the  missing  madmen.  Then  their  off 
moments  were  watched,  with  the  result  that  when  the  ship 
reached  St.  Helena  the  '  observation '  hold  was  cleared  of  its 
former  inmates  and  the  six  insanes  were  duly  installed  therein. 
At  last  the  weary  work  of  sweeping  up  the  wreckage  of  a 
war  which  was  unusually  fertile  in  shipwrecks  drew  to  an  end. 
A  crowd  of  contractors  flocked  to  the  base  to  batten  upon  the 
expected  spoil  when  the  time  for  selling  surplus  stores  came. 
Enormous  accumulations  of  food,  forage,  and  all  the  other 
paraphernalia  of  war  had  to  be  got  rid  of.  At  first  high  prices 
were  obtained  ;  then  the  usual  rings  were  formed.  We  had 
some  thousands  of  tons  of  food-stuffs  to  sell,  and  the  dealers 
saw  their  chance  :  they  would  only  give  first  one  shilling,  and 
then  sixpence,  for  a  heavy  sack  of  Indian  corn.  I  had  two  large 
transports  sailing  with  troops,  the  cargo  decks  of  which  were 
empty.  '  All  right,  gentlemen  ;  we  will  put  these  two  thousand 
odd  tons  of  excellent  food-stuffs  on  board  these  empty  vessels 
and  send  them  to  London.'  Then  the  counter-attack  began. 
The  dealers  worked  hard  to  prevent  this  move ;  the  depart- 
ments were  also  hostile  to  my  proposal.  It  had  not  been 
done  before  ;  it  would  comphcate  departmental  accounts  ;  it 
was  a  new  departure,  etc.,  etc.  '  But  is  it  not  common-sense  ? ' 
I  said.  '  These  innumerable  sacks  of  food,  for  which  we  can 
get  sixpence  here,  will  sell  in  London  for  ten  or  twenty  times 
that  figure.  We  are  already  paying  enormous  prices  for  the 
freightage  of  these  ships  ;  it  wiU  cost  us  nothing  to  send  all 
this  food  to  England.'     This  and  a  lot  more  I  urged.     At  last 


THE  OLD  STORY  211 

sanction  was  given,  and  I  saw  the  enormous  stacks  of  supplies 
vanish  into  the  empty  ships,  the  cargoes  to  fetch  in  London 
even  more  than  I  had  anticipated. 

This  war  against  the  Zulus  in  1879  was,  in  fact,  a  small 
undress  rehearsal  for  that  other  war  which  was  to  be  fought 
in  South  Africa  twenty  years  later.  But  new  men  had  in  the 
interval  come  upon  the  scene  ;  the  older  ones  who  still  remained 
above  ground  were  set  aside  ;  and  every  error  made  in  1879- 
1880 — in  strategy,  tactics,  foresight,  administration,  transport, 
remounts,  supplies,  multiplied  by  the  power  of  twenty  or  per- 
haps thirty — was  repeated  in  1899  and  1900.  Four  million 
pounds  were  thrown  away  in  the  war  of  1879  ;  at  least  one 
hundred  millions  were  flung  to  the  winds  in  that  of  1899  and 
the  two  following  years. 

'  It 's  a  way  we  have  in  our  Army, 
It 's  a  way  we  have  in  our  Navy, 
It 's  a  way  we  have  in  Pall  Mall.' 

How  often  in  my  small  sphere  I  have  laboured  hard  to  save 
fifty  or  a  hundred  thousand  pounds,  making  thereby  enemies 
for  myself  in  every  direction  among  contractors,  clerks,  and 
officials  in  general,  only  to  find  in  the  end  that  there  was  some 
colossal  noodle  above  me  whose  signature  had  the  power  of 
flinging  ten  times  my  savings  into  the  melting-pot  of  waste, 
inefficiency,  and  ineptitude.  'I  go  to  Paris  to  find  my 
enemies  there,'  said  Marshal  Vendome  to  Prince  Eugene,  as 
they  parted  somewhere  in  the  '  Cockpit '  during  the  War  of  the 
Spanish  Succession.  *  And  I  to  Vienna,  where  mine  await 
me,"  replied  the  prince.  It  is  a  very  old  story  ;  it  is  certain 
to  grow  older. 

While  Durban  was  the  scene  of  the  closing  phases  of  the 
Zulu  campaign,  robberies  and  burglaries  became  unusually 
prevalent,  as  many  of  the  Government  stores  had  to  be  kept 
in  large  marquees,  into  which  ingress  was  easily  obtained  at 
night.  To  check  these  robberies,  a  non-commissioned  officer 
of  the  Ordnance  Department  was  put  in  the  large  marquee  at 
nightfall,  with  orders  to  fire  at  any  interloper  he  might  chance 
to  find  there.  Unfortunately  for  the  plan,  a  drunken  old 
conductor,  who  had  come  down  from  the  front,  had  gone 
quietly  into  the  marquee  earlier  in  the  afternoon  for  the  purpose 


212     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

of  sleeping  off  his  potations  among  the  piles  of  blankets  within. 
He  was  in  a  profound  slumber  when  the  watch  was  set,  and  he 
remained  m  it  for  hours  after  ;  but  at  length,  towards  midnight, 
he  awoke  and  began  to  stir  himself.  Bang  !  went  a  revolver 
some  little  distance  from  his  resting-place  ;  then  another  shot, 
and  another.  '  Holy  Moses  !  '  he  shouted,  '  are  the  Zulus  on 
us  agam  ?  '  This  was,  I  think,  the  very  last  of  the  scares  in 
the  Zulu  War.  They  had  lasted  without  intermission  from 
January  to  July.  The  shadow  of  a  cloud  in  the  moonlight 
moving  over  the  side  of  a  hill  was  sometimes  enough  to  set 
the  rifles  going  in  one  of  the  laagers  of  the  invading  force,  or 
even  to  cause  fire  to  be  opened  from  the  ramparts  of  one  of 
the  forts  on  the  line  of  communication.  It  was  always  the 
advance  of  a  Zulu  '  Impi '  that  was  conjured  up  in  somebody's 
excited  imagination.  On  one  occasion,  when  many  thousand 
rounds  of  ammunition  were  fired  off,  the  '  Impi '  came  on 
again  and  again,  only  to  wither  away  before  this  jeu 
d'enfer,  which  went  on  for  many  hours.  When  day  dawned, 
a  single  dead  cow  was  discovered  lying  upon  the  field  of 
battle. 

Early  in  January  1880  all  the  work  was  over,  and  I  was  able 
to  leave  Durban  for  England.  I  had  an  interview  with  Sir 
Bartle  Frere  at  Cape  Town.  He  seemed  feeble  and  broken, 
but  his  eye  had  still  the  old  look  in  it.  He  spoke  much  about 
the  war,  and  I  gathered  from  his  conversation  that  matters  had 
not  been  going  well  between  him  and  the  Home  Government. 
*  But,'  he  said,  '  what  other  course  could  I  have  pursued  ? 
My  military  advisers  told  me  that  they  had  an  ample  force 
for  the  invasion  of  Zululand  ;  that  they  were  ready  and  pre- 
pared in  every  respect.  I  was  bound  to  believe  their  reports. 
I  had  no  means  of  knowing  otherwise,  nor  had  I  any  right  to 
thmk  they  did  not  know  what  they  were  speaking  about.' 
Of  course,  that  was  quite  true ;  but  it  was  a  dangerous  time 
to  begin  a  war  in  South  Africa  when  already  there  was  war 
beyond  the  Indian  frontier  in  Afghanistan.  At  the  time  Sir 
Bartle  Frere  was  speaking  thus,  Sir  Frederick  Roberts  had 
been  sent  up  near  Kabul.  That  city  was  again  in  the  hands 
of  the  enemy,  and  the  reUef  of  the  English  garrison  had  still 
to  be  effected.  That  Afghanistan  had  been  in  Sir  Bartle 
Frere's  mind  at  the  time  he  was  urging  on  the  destruction  of 


A  HOME-SICK  MONARCH  213 

the  Zulu  power  is  extremely  probable,  for  I  find  in  my  notebook 
this  reference  : — 

'At  the  begioniag  of  the  Zulu  War  (Lord   Chelmsford's 

chief  adviser)  is  said  to  have  remarked  that  they  would  march 
through  Zululand  and  then  go  on  to  Afghanistan.' 

But  more  interesting  even  than  my  visit  to  Sir  Bartle  Frere 
was  a  visit  to  Cetewayo  in  the  castle  at  Cape  Town.  Previous 
to  my  leaving  Natal  I  had  received  a  letter  from  Major 
Ruscombe  Poole  (the  officer  who  had  charge  of  Cetewayo) 
asking  me,  if  possible,  to  bring  some  few  bundles  of  green  rushes 
from  Zululand  when  I  was  coming  to  Cape  Town,  in  order  that 
one  of  the  king's  wives  might  make  some  mats,  on  which  the 
king  could  sleep.  (He  was  unable  to  sleep  in  an  English  bed.) 
I  sent  into  Zululand,  through  Mr.  Grant,  a  true  friend  of  the 
Zulus,  and  I  soon  had  three  large  bundles  of  green  rushes  to 
take  with  me  to  Cape  Town.  The  first  thing  I  did  on  arrival 
was  to  get  the  bundles  on  to  the  top  of  a  four-wheeled  cab 
and  drive  to  the  castle.  Everything  leavmg  the  docks  was 
subject  to  duty  ;  but  as  rushes  were  not  in  the  taxable  cata- 
logue, the  gatekeeper  had  to  let  me  through  free.  I  was  soon 
in  the  room  wherein  the  unfortunate  Cetewayo  was  kept.  He 
was  delighted  to  get  this  little  bit  of  his  beloved  Zululand  in 
his  dreary  four-waUed  prison.  It  was  the  same  as  putting  a 
bit  of  green  sod  into  the  cage  of  a  lark  ;  only  the  unfortunate 
Zulu  king  wept  when  he  saw  these  reminders  of  his  old  home, 
and  he  said  to  the  interpreter  as  he  shook  my  hand,  '  Say  to 
him  that  he  has  brought  sleep  to  me  :  now  I  can  rest  at  night.' 

I  reached  England  in  the  middle  of  February  1880.  The 
Government  of  Lord  Beaconsfield  was  on  its  last  legs  :  every 
thing  had  gone  wrong  with  it  ;  all  the  castles  in  the  East  had 
crumbled,  and  in  the  South  things  were  no  better.  Shore  Ali, 
it  is  true,  was  dead  beyond  the  Oxus  River ;  Cetewayo  was  a 
prisoner  in  the  castle  at  Cape  Town ;  but  other  spectres  were 
rising  above  the  frontiers  of  both  countries.  Sir  Bartle  Frere 
had  asked  me  to  see  Ministers  when  I  got  home,  but  they  were 
already  in  the  throes  of  dissolution.  Thmking  that  some  one 
in  colonial  authority  might  wish  to  see  me,  I  put  down  a  few 
recent  impressions  upon  the  general  trend  of  affairs  in  South 
Africa  which  read  fairly  accurate  to-day  : — 


214    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

•  The  state  of  Dutch  feeling  in  the  old  Colony  (Cape  Colony)  is 
being  affected  by  the  condition  of  the  affairs  in  the  New  (the 
Transvaal).  The  one-sidedness  of  whites  and  natives  is  increasing ; 
emigration  is  the  only  cure.' 

On  the  voyage  from  the  Cape  the  steamer  touched  at  St. 
Helena.  It  was  close  to  sunset  when  the  anchor  was  down. 
'  How  long  can  you  give  me,  captain  ? '  I  asked.  '  Two  hours,' 
he  replied.  I  was  off  to  shore  at  once.  I  found  a  small  black 
boy  with  a  small  pony  at  the  landing-place.  Away  we  went 
through  the  single-streeted  town,  and  up  the  steep  mountain 
path — ^the  black  imp  holding  on  by  his  pony's  tail  as  the 
ascent  steepened.  I  knew  the  road,  for  I  had  been  over  it 
sixteen  years  earlier.  It  was  dusk  when  we  gained  the  zigzags 
on  the  track  above  the  '  Briars  '  ;  then  came  the  bit  of  level 
curving  track  by  the  alarm  post,  and  then  the  well-remembered 
/side  path  to  the  left  dipping  down  steeply  to  the  head  of 
Rupert's  Valley.  There  in  the  dusk  was  the  silent  tomb  again  ; 
the  dark  cypress  trees,  the  old  Norfolk  Island  pines,  the  broken 
wiUow,  the  iron  railings,  the  big  white  flagstone  in  the  centre 
of  the  railed  space — all  the  lonely  encompassing  lava  hills 
merging  into  the  gathering  gloom  of  night ;  and  only  a  yellow 
streak  of  afterglow,  still  lying  above  the  western  rocks,  to  make 
the  profound  depths  of  this  vaUey  seem  more  measureless. 

I  was  back  on  board  the  Nubian  ere  the  two  hours  had 
expired.  The  time  at  the  grave  had  been  short ;  but  it  did 
not  matter  :  twenty-six  years  later  I  was  to  be  there  again, 
a  dweller  for  days  together  on  the  ridge  of  Longwood  above 
the  tomb. 


CHAPTER  XIV 

War  in  South  Africa.  Majuba.  Adjutant-General  in  the  Western  District.  The 
Egyptian  question.  Bombardment  of  Alexandria.  Arabi.  Service  in 
Egypt.  On  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley's  Staff.  El  Magfar.  Tel-el-Mahouta. 
Kassassin.     The  night  march.     Tel-el-Kebir. 

Lord  Beaconsfield  resigned  office  after  the  General  Election 
of  March,  and  Mr.  Gladstone  came  into  power  in  April  1880. 
In  the  new  administration  the  Marquis  of  Ripon  was  appointed 
Viceroy  of  India,  Colonel  Charles  Gordon  going  with  him  as 
private  secretary.  Lord  Ripon  had,  quite  unknown  to  me, 
proposed  my  name  for  that  position,  but  Mr.  Gladstone  had 
not  approved  the  selection.  He  considered  that  a  Catholic 
viceroy  in  India  was  sufficiently  experimental  without  further 
endangering  the  position  by  the  appointment  of  another  of  the 
same  creed  to  a  subordinate  but  still  influential  post.  So, 
in  place  of  proceeding  to  our  great  Eastern  dependency  '  in  a 
position  of  considerable  power  and  influence  and  fuU  of  very 
interesting  though  very  hard  work,'  as  its  last  holder,  Colonel 
CoUey,  had  described  it,  I  was  sent  as  chief  staff  officer  to 
Devonport,  having  been  previously  promoted  heutenant- 
colonel  in  the  army  for  services  in  Natal. 

Mihtary  life  in  England  can  never  be  *  magnificent,'  stiU 

less,  of  course,  is  it  likely  to  be  '  war.'     In  India  it  can  be  both. 

As  private  secretary  to  the  viceroy  I  should  have  received 

between  three  and  four  thousand  pounds  a  year  ;    as  assistant 

adjutant-general  of  the  Western  District  I  received  six  hundred 

pounds.     Service  in  England,  however,  possesses  the  saving 

grace  of  having  a  large  measure  of  humour  attached  to  it  ; 

nothing    makes    for    humour    more    than    make-believe.     An 

army,  the  officers  of  which  are  dressed  for  the  benefit  of  the 

London  tailor,  and  the  soldiers  of  which  are  administered  largely 

in  the  interests  of  the  War  Office  clerk,  must  of  necessity  afford 

situations  replete  with  humour  ;    but  the  laughter  they  evoke 

has  to  be  paid  for  by  somebody  in  the  end. 

216 


216    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Before  the  year  1880  closed,  war  had  broken  out  again  in 
South  Africa  and  Afghanistan.  Up  to  the  middle  of  the  year 
the  prospect,  people  said,  was  entirely  peaceful.  The  leading 
authority  in  Eastern  affairs — Sir  Henry  Rawlinson — had 
publicly  declared  that  the  outlook  on  the  side  of  Candahar 
was  eminently  tranquil.  The  Transvaal  administrator — Sir 
Owen  Lanyon — repeatedly  asserted  that  no  apprehension 
need  be  entertained  in  that  country.  Suddenly,  as  though 
he  had  come  in  a  balloon,  Ayub  Khan  descended  into  the 
valley  of  the  Helmund.  With  equal  rapidity  the  Boers 
concentrated  at  Heidelberg,  and  declared  the  Transvaal  a 
Republic.  In  midsummer  Burrowes  was  '  annihilated '  at 
Maiwand.  In  December,  Anstruther,  movmg  with  the  head- 
quarters of  the  94th  Regiment  from  Heidelberg  to  Pretoria, 
was  destroyed  at  Brunker's  Spruit.  Then  in  rapid  succession 
came  disasters  at  Laing's  Nek,  Igogo,  and  finally  at  Majuba, 
where  poor  CoUey  fell.  Before  the  defeat  of  the  late  Govern- 
ment he  had  been  transferred  from  the  private  secretaryship 
in  India  to  the  position  of  lieutenant-governor  of  Natal.  In 
the  months  following  my  return  from  Natal  to  England  I 
had  seen  a  good  deal  of  him  in  London,  and  I  was  present  at 
the  banquet  given  to  him  by  the  Colonial  Office  in  May  on  the 
eve  of  his  departure  for  Natal.  How  fuU  of  felicitations  and 
of  hope  were  the  speeches  of  everybody  that  evening  !  Par- 
ticularly optimistic  was  the  speech  of  Lord  Kimberley,  the 
Secretary  of  State.  A  new  South  Africa  was  about  to  arise 
out  of  the  mists  and  vapours  of  the  past,  they  said,  as  indeed 
we  shall  find  them  saying  seventeen  years  later  when  another 
'  Proconsul '  was  about  to  depart  for  the  same  destination. 
AU  make-believe  again.  When  will  our  governors  realise  that, 
of  all  the  foundations  possible  for  building  empire  upon,  this 
of  make-believe  is  the  very  worst  1 

I  was  in  London  when  the  news  of  Majuba  arrived  there. 
On  the  evening  of  Sunday,  26th  February,  a  telegram  had 
been  received  at  the  War  Office  from  CoUey  announcing  the 
occupation  by  him  that  morning  of  a  commanding  position 
overlooking  the  Boer  camp,  and  completely  commanding  the 
ridge  of  Laing's  Nek.  The  Boers  were  preparing  to  trek  from 
their  camp.  I  had  seen  a  copy  of  this  message  late  on  Sunday 
evening.     At  breakfast  next  morning  the  fuU  report  of  the 


A  LULL  #  217 

disaster,  which  had  followed  immediately  upon  the  despatch 
of  this  message,  was  in  all  the  London  papers.  I  went  to  the 
War  Office.  None  of  the  higher  officials  were  there.  Sir 
Garnet  Wolseley  was  then  residing  some  twenty  miles  from 
London.  I  knew  that  he  would  pass  through  Trafalgar 
Square,  and  I  waited  there  until  he  came.  Then  I  walked  to 
the  War  Office  with  him.  Colley  was,  I  think,  the  dearest 
friend  he  had  in  the  army  ;  certainly  he  was  the  one  in  whom 
he  trusted  the  most  thoroughly.  He  felt  his  loss  deeply.  It 
was  a  very  busy  day  in  the  Office  ;  reinforcements  were  under 
orders  immediately ;  the  Duke  arrived  early.  There  were 
councils  and  consultations.  Before  the  afternoon  had  come 
everything  was  arranged.  Sir  Frederick  Roberts  was  to  go 
out  in  command.  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley  must  remain  at  the 
War  Office  as  quartermaster-general.  The  command  of  the  line 
of  communications  had  been  offered  to  Colonel  T.  D.  Baker, 
who  was  abroad  at  the  moment.  In  the  event  of  his  re- 
fusal. Sir  F.  Roberts  asked  if  I  would  accept  the  position.  Of 
course  I  said  '  Yes,"  but  Baker  took  the  post ;  and,  as  is  known 
to  everybody,  the  Peace  of  O'Neill's  Farm  was  made  before 
the  commander,  his  staff,  or  the  reinforcements  arrived  in 
South  Africa. 

For  more  than  a  year  now  the  work  in  the  Western  District 
was  of  the  usual  staff  type  common  to  home  service.  I  have 
spoken  of  the  humorous  contrasts  by  which  it  was  sometimes 
enlivened.  An  Easter  Monday  Volunteer  Review  at  Ports- 
mouth or  Dover,  or  a  Grand  Field  Day  at  Aldershot,  not  un- 
frequently  provided  the  incidents  which  caused  these  pleasant 
interludes  in  what  must  have  been  otherwise  a  period  of  a 
somewhat  monotonous  character. 

The  army  in  its  higher  ranks  still  swore,  not  perhaps  as 
lustily  as  it  did  of  old  in  Flanders,  but  stiU  a  good  deal  more 
than  was  good  for  it,  or  for  those  who  had  to  listen  to  it. 
There  was  once  a  general  commanding  at  Aldershot  whose 
reply  to  a  royal  personage,  on  an  occasion  when  the  display 
of  forcible  language  was  more  than  usually  emphatic,  struck 
me  as  being  exceptionally  neat  and  appropriate.  He  had  been 
the  recipient  during  the  operations  of  a  good  deal  of  strong 
language,  and  at  the  final  '  pow-wow  '  some  allusion  was  made 
to  those  fireworks  of  the  tongue.     '  I  don't  mind  being  called 


218    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 
a   d fool/  he  said,   *  if  it  pleases  your  Royal  Highness 


to  call  me  so  ;  but  I  do  mind  being  called  a  d fool  before 

your  Royal  Highness's  other  d fools/  and  he  swept  his 

hand  towards  the  large  and  brilliant  staff  grouped  behind  the 
commander-in-chief. 

The  troubles  in  South  Africa  and  Afghanistan  had  scarcely 
subsided  ere  things  began  to  threaten  in  the  valley  of  the  Nile. 
When  a  '  question/  as  it  is  called,  suddenly  seems  to  approach 
solution,  or  to  demand  some  active  treatment,  the  general 
public  (who  up  to  this  pomt  have  been  kept  entirely  in  the  dark 
in  relation  to  it)  are  suddenly  deluged  with  information  about 
it,  but  it  is  always  information  of  a  single  type  and  pattern. 
The  Egyptian  question,  which  began  to  assume  light  in  1881, 
was  a  striking  example  of  this  rule.  It  had  been  slowly 
maturing  in  the  minds  of  certain  politicians  for  several  years. 
As  early  as  the  winter  of  1875-76,  three  military  officers  had 
been  sent  to  Egypt  to  report  upon  frontiers  and  possibilities. 
The  movement  of  Russian  armies  in  Bulgaria  and  Asia  Minor 
two  years  later  postponed  action  ;  then  came  the  deposition 
of  Ismail  Pasha  in  1879  ;  the  succession  of  Tewfik  as  Khedive  ; 
the  budding  of  a  National  party  in  Egypt  in  1880-81,  and  the 
subsequent  intrigues  of  Jews  and  Gentiles,  Turks,  Arabs, 
Greeks,  and  Syrians  ;  of  aU  those  extraordinary,  astute  human 
units  grouped  under  the  name  of  Levantines,  whose  greeds, 
lusts,  and  various  financial  activities  have  played  such  a  promi- 
nent part  in  shaping  the  flow  of  the  history  of  the  last  forty 
years. 

In  such  watching  of  the  world's  forces  as  I  have  been 
able  to  give  through  thirty  of  those  years,  I  have  been  struck 
by  a  general  course  of  action  which  has  pervaded  most,  if  not 
all,  of  those  various  movements.  I  would  describe  it  thus. 
The  faddist  appears  first  upon  the  scene.  He  is,  generally 
speaking,  an  honest  and  sincere  man,  quick  to  catch  impressions, 
eager  to  teU  about  them,  of  an  overweening  vanity,  an  un- 
balanced ambition,  and  a  facility  for  putting  thought  into 
speech  or  writing  far  beyond  his  power  of  putting  thought 
into  sense  or  action.  This  man  is  consumed  by  a  wish  to  do 
something.  He  would  canalise  the  plain  of  Esdraelon,  flood 
the  valley  of  the  Jordan  with  the  waters  of  the  Mediterranean, 
run  a  railway  from  the  Euphrates  to  the  Himalayas,  repeople 


THE  FINANCIER  IN  WAR  219 

Palestine  with  the  children  of  Israel,  supplant  Christianity 
by  Buddhism,  or  Buddhism  by  Confucianism ;  in  a  word,  he 
is  a  little  of  a  genius  and  a  good  deal  of  a  madman  with  a  pur- 
pose ;  the  mass  of  madmen  have  no  purpose.  The  second 
man  to  appear  on  the  scene  is  the  politician.  He  sees  in  this 
idea  something  which  he  may  be  able  to  turn  to  his  own  pur- 
pose— a  new  frontier,  an  outlet  for  trade  ;  a  bigger  vote  at 
the  polls,  a  higher  place  in  a  cabinet.  Then  comes  the  great 
financier,  the  man  of  many  millions,  the  controller  of  vast 
enterprises.  He  is  reaUy  the  final  factor  in  all  this  business. 
When  he  takes  sides,  throws  his  weight  into  the  scale,  the 
matter  has  passed  into  the  region  of  practical  politics,  and  the 
old  nebulous  proposition  has  become  the  supremely  important 
question  of  the  hour, 

I  know  of  no  more  iUuminating  work  published  in  recent 
times  than  the  Secret  History  of  the  English  Occupation  of 
Egypt,  by  Mr.  Wilfrid  Scawen  Blunt.  In  the  pages  of  that 
book  the  devious  ways  of  diplomacy  are  made  clear  :  the 
genius,  the  politician,  the  young  diplomatic  attache,  the  Foreign 
Office  official  move  to  and  fro  before  our  eyes  ;  and,  at  last, 
we  find  the  financier  whipping  the  whole  pack  together  and 
letting  loose  the  dogs  of  war. 

It  is  not  a  very  high  or  ennobling  level  from  which  to  begin 
the  business  of  war.  Compared  with  most  of  the  old  causes 
of  conflict  which  our  fathers  knew  of,  it  is  decidedly  below 
the  average  standard  of  dynastic  jealousies,  the  rivalries  of 
States,  the  great  social  or  political  questions,  such  as  underlay 
the  Civil  War  in  America — even  of  the  old  loves  of  men  and 
women.  These  were  aU  subjects  likely  to  caU  from  war  the 
thing  which  Shakespeare  considered  made  ambition  virtue. 

But  the  soldier  of  to-day  has  to  be  content  with  what  he 
can  get,  and  the  gift  war-horse  which  the  Stock  Exchange  is 
now  able  to  bestow  upon  him  must  not  be  examined  too 
severely  in  the  mouth. 

On  11th  July  the  forts  at  Alexandria  were  bombarded  by  the 
British  fleet,  with  the  result  that  the  forts  were  destroj-ed  and 
a  large  portion  of  the  town  was  reduced  to  ruins.  The  huge 
shells  flew  wide  and  high,  some  of  them  reaching  Lake  Mariout, 
two  miles  inland.  The  Egyptian  army  retreated  from  the  city 
during  the  night  following  the  bombardment,  and  the  rear- 

\ 


220    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

guard,  with  numerous  bands  of  Arabs,  fired  and  plundered 
a  large  portion  of  the  European  and  Levantine  quarters  of  the 
city. 

The  bombardment  of  Alexandria  was  a  strategic  and  tactical 
error  of  the  first  magnitude.  It  was  known  in  London  that 
Alexandria  could  not  be  made  a  base  for  the  conquest  of  the 
Delta  in  August.  Ismailia,  on  the  Suez  Canal,  was  always 
recognised  as  the  true  base  from  which  to  deliver  a  rapid  blow, 
the  object  of  which  would  be  the  capture  of  Cairo.  The 
possession  of  Alexandria  was  no  more  essential  to  the  campaign 
than  the  possession  of  Smyrna  or  the  Piraeus  would  have  been. 
The  longer  the  Egyptian  army  could  have  been  induced  to 
remain  at  Alexandria,  the  better  it  would  have  been  for  us. 

By  forcing  Arabi  Pasha  to  withdraw  his  troops  behind 
Kafr-Dowr,  we  enabled  him  to  mask  Alexandria  with  a  small 
force  and  use  the  bulk  of  his  troops  m  the  desert  at  Tel-el- 
Kebir.  But  space  forbids  that  I  should  delay  over  the  political 
and  strategic  aspects  of  the  war  in  Egypt,  and  I  must  pass  to 
the  relation  of  my  own  personal  experience  in  that  short 
campaign  of  1882. 

It  is  not  impossible  that  the  English  Cabinet  believed,  when 
they  gave  a  half-reluctant  consent  to  the  bombardment  of 
Alexandria,  that  the  destruction  of  the  forts  would  be  followed 
bj''  the  coUapse  of  the  National  movement,  but,  as  has  hap- 
pened so  often  in  our  military  history,  the  exact  opposite  of 
the  expected  occurred.  The  determination  of  the  Egyptians 
to  resist  intervention  in  their  internal  affairs  received  fresh 
strength  and  purpose  from  the  spectacle  of  destruction  wrought 
by  the  British  fleet  in  what  was  an  entirely  one-sided  conflict, 
and  in  the  month  following  the  bombardment  it  became 
abundantly  clear  that  if  the  National  movement  in  Egypt 
was  to  be  overturned,  an  army  of  invasion  must  be  sent  into 
the  Delta. 

This  army  was  hastily  got  together  in  the  latter  part  of 
July,  and  it  left  the  United  Kingdom  in  the  first  half  of  August. 
It  had  not  undergone  any  prehminary  organisation  or  pre- 
paratory training  in  brigade  or  division  ;  the  regimental 
battalion  had  sufficed  for  all  preparatory  work,  and  the  larger 
units  of  military  command,  together  with  their  generals,  staffs, 
and  transport,  were  to  be  put  together  at  the  port  or  place  of 


THE  DESERT  CAIMPAIGN  OPENS  221 

disembarkation,  after  the  expeditionary  force  had  landed  in 
Egypt. 

Of  these  generals  and  their  staffs  there  was  an  extraordinarily 
large  number,  a  number  out  of  all  proportion  to  the  strength 
of  the  fighting  men.  There  were,  I  thuik,  some  eighteen  general 
officers  to  twelve  thousand  bayonets.  On  taking  the  three 
arms — infantry,  cavalry,  and  artillery — together,  there  was  a 
general  to  every  nine  hundred  men.  At  first  sight  this  plethora 
of  the  highest  rank  might  seem  of  small  account,  but  in  reality 
in  war  it  was  certain  to  prove  a  serious  injur5^  Even  in  a 
campaign  of  exceptional  activity,  the  days  of  actual  fighting 
must  bear  smaU  relation  to  the  daj^s  when  there  is  no  external 
fighting.  \Vhen  there  is  no  external  fighting  going  on,  internal 
squabbles  are  apt  to  show  themselves  in  camp  or  on  the  march. 
Staffs  are  also  belligerently  disposed  on  these  occasions.  The 
feathers  of  the  domestic  cock  have  for  many  years  been  used 
to  distinguish  general  and  staff  officers  in  the  British  army. 
'  Fine  feathers  make  fine  birds '  is  an  old  saying ;  and  why  should 
not  the  plumage  of  the  rooster,  fluttering  gaily  in  the  cocked 
hat  of  generals  and  staff  officers,  have  some  effect  upon  the 
heads  of  the  men  who  are  called  '  the  brains  of  the  army  '  ? 

I  cannot  delay  over  these  domestic  differences.  In  spite  of 
them  the  flow  of  action,  under  the  inspiring  touch  of  the 
commander-in-chief,  moved  steadily  forward  from  the  base 
at  Ismaiha  to  the  big  grey,  gravelly  desert  that  lay  in  front  of 
the  Egyptian  lines  of  Tel-el-Kebir.  There  were  minor  actions 
fought  at  El  Magfar  and  Kassassin  before  this  point  had  been 
gained  on  the  Sweet  Water  Canal,  which  ran  from  the  Delta  to 
the  Suez  Canal  at  Lake  Timsah,  and  of  these  minor  actions, 
that  which  took  place  at  El  Magfar  on  24th  August  was  the 
most  important.  Three  days  earher  the  advanced  portion  of 
the  army  began  to  land  at  Ismailia.  All  through  the  22nd 
and  23rd,  horse,  foot,  and  artillery  were  got  on  shore,  and  an 
hour  before  daybreak  on  the  24th  they  pushed  out  into  the 
desert  along  the  Sweet  Water  Canal,  the  waters  of  which  had 
been  shrinking  with  ominous  rapidity  throughout  the  previous 
day  and  night.  The  canal  had,  in  fact,  been  dammed  at 
Magfar,  ten  miles  forward  in  the  direction  of  Cairo,  and  the 
railway  had  been  broken  at  the  same  place. 

Sir  Garnet  Wolseley,  dissatisfied  with  the  reports  he  received 


222    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

from  his  InteUigence  Department,  had  determined  to  ride  for- 
ward with  a  few  mounted  troops,  in  order  to  see  for  himself 
what  was  in  his  front.  He  took  a  few  staff  officers  with  him, 
of  whom  I  was  one.  Two  Horse  Artillery  guns  and  a  couple  of 
infantr}^  battalions  were  to  follow  the  mounted  men.  I  have 
never  forgotten  that  first  morning  out  from  Ismailia.  Here, 
as  day  broke,  was  the  desert  at  last,  the  first  sight  I  had  ever 
had  of  it.  There  is  nothing  like  it  in  all  the  world — only  sand, 
the  sand  of  the  hour-glass,  but  made  infinite  by  space,  just 
as  a  tumbler  of  sea  water  becomes  infinite  in  the  ocean.  Sand, 
drifted  into  motionless  waves,  heaped  in  ridges,  scooped  into 
valleys,  flattened,  blown  up  into  curious  cones  and  long  yellow 
banks,  the  tops  of  which  the  winds  have  cut  into  fretted 
patterns  as  it  blew  over  them.  And  aU  so  silent,  so  withered, 
and  yet  so  fresh  ;  so  soft,  so  beautiful,  and  yet  so  terrible. 

The  reconnaissance  was  to  be  a  morning  ride  ten  or  twelve 
miles  forward,  then  back  ;  haversack  food,  and  water  from  the 
canal,  the  bank  of  which  the  left  of  the  advancing  column  was 
to  keep  in  touch  with.  This  canal,  which  made  life  possible 
at  Ismailia,  Suez,  and  Port  Said,  made  a  sharp  angle  in  its 
course  not  far  from  Ismailia.  The  advancing  troops  followed 
the  two  sides  of  this  angle.  I  and  another  officer  of  the 
staff  struck  straight  from  Ismailia  into  the  desert,  so  as  to 
cut  the  angle  on  a  shorter  line  than  that  on  which  the  troops 
moved.  We  were  some  three  or  four  miles  out  when  the  sound 
of  cannon  shot  came  booming  over  the  desert  from  the  direction 
of  our  left  front.  The  sun  was  now  high  above  the  horizon, 
and  the  mirage  was  showing  distorted  water  patches  and 
inverted  bushes  on  many  sides,  but  it  was  easy  to  steer  towards 
the  cannon  sound. 

We  had  cleared  the  soft  sand  hillocks  that  surrounded 
Ismailia,  and  the  surface  of  the  desert  was  now  good  going. 
In  twenty  minutes  we  were  in  the  little  oasis  of  Abu  Suez, 
close  to  the  railway  and  canal,  where  the  hard  desert  was 
mixed  with  patches  of  soft  clay,  on  which  mimosa  scrub  and 
weeds  grew.  Here  we  found  the  commander-in-chief,  a 
squadron  or  two  of  Household  Cavalry,  and  a  company  of 
mounted  infantry.  A  mile  or  two  in  rear  a  battalion  of 
infantry,  one  of  Marine  Artillery,  and  two  Horse  Artillery  guns 
were  coming  in  clouds  of  dust  along  the  railway  track  from 


THE  FIRST  SHOT  223 

NefisM.  From  where  we  stood,  the  desert  for  three  thousand 
yards  rose  gradually  to  Tel-el-Mahouta,  where  some  lofty 
mounds  of  sand  and  broken  pottery  still  marked  what  is 
supposed  to  have  been  the  spot  at  which  Pharaoh  decreed  that 
the  Israelites  should  make  bricks  without  straw.  These  mounds 
ended  the  forward  view  ;  they  were  now  black  with  figures, 
while  to  the  right  and  left  of  them  a  long,  open  line  of  Arab 
camel-men  and  horsemen  stretched  along  the  skyline  far  into 
the  desert  on  either  flank. 

It  was  a  very  striking  scene  :  the  morning  sun  shone  fuU  in 
their  faces  ;  musket  barrel  and  spear  head  flashed  and  glittered 
along  the  desert  ridge,  while  behind  it  the  heads  of  many  more 
men  and  camels  showed  above  the  ridge ;  and  beyond  them 
again  straight  columns  of  black  railway  smoke  were  rising 
into  the  still,  clear  air  of  the  desert,  showing  that  the  resources 
of  civilisation  had  also  been  called  into  request  by  the  Egyptian 
enemy,  and  that  his  infantry  were  being  hurried  up  from  the 
direction  where  lay  Tel-el-Kebir  to  make  head  against  our 
further  advance.  These  smoke  columns  really  changed  the 
plan  and  purpose  of  the  morning's  work.  The  reconnaissance 
became  a  fixed  movement.  The  commander-in-chief  was  here, 
and  here  he  would  stay.  He  had  in  the  ground  immediately 
around  him  a  favourable  position  for  fighting  an  advance-guard 
action  which  would  give  six  or  eight  hours  for  bringing  up 
reinforcements.  Away  went  an  A.D.C.  back  to  Ismailia  to 
hurry  up  the  Guards  Brigade  and  what  odds  and  ends  of  the 
three  arms  had  disembarked.  It  was  now  nine  o'clock,  and 
the  sun  was  rapidly  making  his  presence  felt.  Kot  a  breath 
of  wind  stirred.  Adye  would  take  an  hour  and  a  half  to  reach 
Ismailia,  the  troops  another  hour  and  a  half  to  turn  out.  The 
march  through  the  sand  in  this  burning  sun  would  take  three, 
four,  or  five  hours  ;  say  seven  hours  must  elapse  before  any- 
thing of  consequence  could  arrive. 

The  opening  moves  on  the  Egyptian  side  were  well  done. 
A  single  gun  placed  at  the  Mahouta  mounds  opened  the 
ball  with  a  shell  so  well  aimed  that  after  it  had  passed  a 
couple  of  feet  exactly  over  the  commander-in-chief's  head, 
as  he  stood  with  his  staff  on  the  top  of  a  sand  hillock,  it 
burst  among  the  leaders  of  an  artillery  team  just  arrived 
upon  the  field.     Half  an  hour  later  five  additional  Egyptian 


224     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

guns  are  in  action  on  this  ridge,  their  shells  falling  freely 
among  the  sand  hiUocks  and  ground  folds  where  our  nine 
hundred  foot  soldiers  are  partially  concealed  from  Egyptian 
sight.  The  mounted  men  are  out  nearly  a  mile  to  the  north 
on  the  gravel  ridges,  keeping  in  check  a  flanking  movement 
which  the  Egyptian  is  making  in  that  direction  threatening 
to  overlap  our  right.  Altogether,  it  makes  a  very  interesting 
little  battle  picture,  to  the  scenic  effect  of  which  are  added 
other  quahties  of  doubt,  expectation,  chance,  and  calculation, 
the  presence  of  which  makes  a  battle  by  far  the  most 
exciting  and  enthralling  of  all  hfe's  possibilities  to  its  mortals. 
WTiat  has  Arabi  got  behind  the  desert  ridge  ?  That  is  the  first 
point.  By  ten  o'clock  he  has  shown  six  guns  on  the  ridge  ; 
their  practice  is  now  so  good  that  between  ten  and  ten-fifteen 
o'clock  he  has  burst  eight  shells  on  and  close  around  the  hiUock 
where  our  two  Horse  xArtillery  guns  are  hard  at  work  trying  to 
reply  to  these  heavy  odds.  At  twelve  o'clock  six  more  guns 
are  pushed  over  the  ridge  crest  on  our  extreme  right,  enfilading 
our  first  position  and  partly  taking  it  in  reverse.  Behind  those 
new  guns  we  can  see  at  times  men  moving  in  formed  bodies  to 
our  right.  About  noon  A.D.C.  Adj^'e  is  back  from  Ismailia  : 
the  Guards  Brigade  was  to  move  at  one  o'clock.  The  Duke  of 
Cornwall's  Regiment  from  Nefishi  was  a  mile  or  two  m  rear  ; 
two  Gatltngs  and  a  party  of  sailors  from  the  Orion  wore  at  hand. 
MeanwhUe,  the  heat  had  become  simply  outrageous,  the  sun 
stood  straight  overhead,  the  j^eUow  sand  glowed  like  hot  coals  ; 
not  a  breath  of  air  stirred  over  these  hot  hillocks. 

It  was  a  curious  situation.  What  if  the  Egyptian  puts  another 
ten  or  twelve  thousand  men  and  a  couple  of  brisk  batteries  on 
our  flank  ?  He  has  a  railway  to  the  foot  of  this  ridge  ;  our  rail- 
way line  has  been  broken  in  two  or  three  places  between  us  and 
Ismaiha.  It  is  all  soft,  hot  sand  for  our  men,  who  are  just  off 
ship  board.  But  the  Egj^Dtian  would  not  come  on  ;  he  kept 
playing  at  long  bowls  with  his  twelve  guns,  and  as  the  afternoon 
wore  on  his  chances  grew  less.  The  Duke  of  Cornwall's 
Regiment  arrived  at  one  o'clock.  At  four  came  some  squadrons 
of  dragoons,  and  at  six  the  Guards  and  four  Horse  Artillery 
guns  reached  the  field.  Better  than  any  or  all  of  these  came 
the  sunset  hour,  the  cool  breeze  from  the  north,  and  a  few  carts 
with  food  of  some  sort.    Speaking  for  myseK,  the  last  reinforce- 


OUR  CHIEF  225 

ment  was  the  most  welcome.  I  had  started  from  Ismailia  at 
5  A.M.,  with  a  cup  of  coffee  and  a  biscuit  in  the  inner  man,  and 
a  tiny  tin  of '  Liebig  '  on  the  outer  one,  for  we  were  to  have  been 
back  in  Ismailia  for  breakfast.  These,  -wdth  a  shce  of  water- 
melon, had  kept  me  going  for  thirteen  hours  under  a  sun  and 
in  an  atmosphere  the  strength  and  fervour  of  which  it  would  not 
be  easy  to  describe.  The  thing  that  struck  me  most  throughout 
that  long  day  and  dwelt  longest  in  mj'  memory  was  the  bearing 
of  our  chief.  The  enemj-'s  guns  might  multiply  from  over  the 
ridge  in  front  and  to  our  right  flank,  the  shells  drop  faster 
and  closer  upon  our  ten  or  fifteen  hundred  men,  the  sun  might 
glow  stronger  overhead — it  didn't  matter  ;  cool  and  cheery, 
with  a  kind  word  for  everj'  one  who  approached  him,  an  eye  for 
everything  that  happened  on  front  or  flank,  or  amongst  us,  he 
personified  more  than  any  man  I  had  ever  seen  the  best  type  of 
the  soldier. 

I  remember  a  Httle  incident  that  happened  during  that 
afternoon  when  the  Egyptians  were  pushing  their  left  attack 
with  greater  ardour,  and  their  fixe  had  compelled  our  cavalry 
on  the  right  to  retire  from  the  position  they  had  first  occu- 
pied directly  on  our  right  flank.  Ordering  his  horse  to  be 
brought  up,  the  commander-in-chief  mounted,  and  telling  me 
to  accompany  him,  he  rode  in  the  direction  of  the  cavalry,  who 
were  then  about  a  mile  distant  in  the  desert,  where  they  were 
drawing  a  good  many  of  the  enemy's  shells  upon  them.  When 
we  had  got  about  half-way  across  the  intervening  space,  and 
the  Egyptians,  spotting  us,  had  begun  to  favour  us  ^ith  some 
shots, the  commander-in-chief  pulled  up.sa^-ing,  'I  cannot  stand 
the  pain  of  this  leg  of  mine  any  longer,  the London  boot- 
maker has  made  the  leg  of  my  right  boot  so  tight  that  when  I 
was  dragging  it  on  in  the  dark  this  morning  the  riding  breeches 
got  so  wedged  and  crumpled  upon  the  calf  of  the  leg  that  its 
pressure  has  been  intolerable  for  some  time  past.  Can  you  get 
it  right  for  me  ?  '  We  dismounted,  I  made  him  sit  on  the 
sand,  got  the  boot  off,  cut  a  sUt  in  the  leather,  and  we  went  on 
again.  I  thought  it  strange  at  first  that  he  had  not  required 
this  little  service  of  me  while  we  were  still  among  the  troops  in 
the  sand  hillocks,  instead  of  waiting  until  we  were  out  in  the 
barest  part  of  the  desert  and  quite  visible  to  the  enemy  on  two 
sides  ;  but  then  it  occurred  to  me  that  had  this  boot  pulling-off 

p 


226     SIR  \\1LLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

been  performed  in  the  midst  of  the  men,  who  were  bj^  no  means 
too  happily  situated  imder  the  conditions  then  existing,  there 
might  easily  have  spread  the  idea  that  the  commander-in-chief 
was  down,  and  that  the  surgeons  were  preparing  to  cut  his  leg 
off  ;  and  so  he  had  kept  the  pain  to  himself  for  hours  rather 
than  ease  it  under  the  eyes  of  his  soldiers. 

We  soon  reached  the  cavalry.  The  two  squadrons  were  kept 
moving  slowly  on  the  desert  in  open  column  in  order  to 
distract  the  aim  of  the  enemy's  gun-layers.  A  sheU  had  just 
dropped  into  them  and  killed  a  horse.  Its  rider  was  on  his  feet 
in  a  moment,  calling  out,  '  Three  cheers  for  the  first  charger  in 
the  Life  Guards  killed  since  \Yaterloo  !  ' 

An  hour  later  the  first  of  the  reinforcements  arrived  upon 
the  field.  The  relay  was  specially  welcome  to  the  two  Horse 
Artillery  guns,  which  had  fired  off  two  hundred  and  thirty 
rounds  that  day.  There  were  other  targets  now  for  the  dozen 
Egyptian  guns  to  fire  at ;  but  the  army  of  Arabi  had  lost  its 
chance,  one  that  was  not  likely  to  occur  again  in  this  short 
campaign. 

'  The  Chief  '  ^  returned  to  Ismaiha  at  sunset.  I  was  left  to 
see  the  reinforcements  in  and  the  bivouac  arranged,  then  I 
rode  back  along  the  canal  under  a  brilliant  moon.  It  was  nine 
o'clock  when  I  reached  Ismaiha.  It  had  been  a  long  day,  more 
than  sixteen  hours  of  saddle,  sun,  and  sand,  fourteen  of  them 
on  little  except  canal  water.  In  six  hours  we  were  to  be  off 
again  to  Magfar.  It  was  not  likely  that  the  twelve  Egyptian 
guns  which  had  kept  fixing  at  us  until  after  sundown  would 
have  got  far  away  from  Magfar  at  daylight  next  morning  ; 
there  would,  therefore,  be  every  chance  of  getting  some  of  them 
by  a  rapid  advance  of  aU  our  mounted  troops  at  daybreak. 

I  got  a  shakedown  on  the  ofi&ce  floor  for  a  few  hours  ;  and  we 
were  again  clear  of  Ismailia  at  3.30  a.m.  on  the  25th  August, 
floundering  through  the  deep  sand  in  the  dark.  We  reached 
the  scene  of  yesterday's  fight  as  day  broke.  The  troops,  now 
swoUen  to  a  division,  had  left  their  bivouac,  and  were  formed 
up  on  the  desert  facing  Mahouta,  the  cavahy  and  artillery  on 
the  right,  the  infantry  near  the  canal,  the  whole  in  attack 
formation. 

We  were  soon  on  the  top  of  the  ridge  from  which  the  Egyptian 

1  The  name  thev  called  Sir  Garnet  bv.— E.  B. 


GENERAL  DRURY  LOWE'S  CAVALRY  227 

guns  had  pounded  us  on  the  previous  day.  A  long  stretch  of 
desert  opened  at  the  farther  side  towards  Kassassin,  ten  miles 
forward.  The  sun  was  now  well  up  and  the  mists  were  drawing 
off  from  the  desert  ;  several  trains  were  moving  along  the  rail- 
way in  the  valley  to  our  left  front ;  clouds  of  dust  forward 
showed  that  artillery  was  retiring  before  us,  A  rapid  survey 
of  the  scene  sufficed.  The  Chief  called  me  to  him.  '  Gallop 
to  Drury  Lowe/  he  said  ;  '  tell  him  to  take  all  his  cavalry  and 
Horse  Artillery  forward,  and  coute  que  coute  capture  one  or  more 
of  those  trains.  An  engine  would  be  worth  a  lot  of  money  to 
me  now.'  I  galloped  off  without  waiting  for  the  order  to  be 
written,  and  soon  overhauled  the  cavalry,  which  were  moving 
along  the  gravelly  desert  in  advance,  under  a  dropping  shell  fire 
from  some  Egyptian  guns  on  lower  ground  near  the  railway. 
I  delivered  my  order  to  General  Drurj?-  Lowe  ;  the  cavalry  went 
forward  at  the  best  pace  they  could  ;  but  the  horses,  all  just 
off  shipboard,  were  already  showing  the  severe  strain  of  the  last 
twenty-four  hours  in  sand  and  sun.  Five  hours  later  the  rail- 
way station  at  Mahsamah  was  captured  by  General  Lowe  ;  the 
Egyptian  camp,  with  seven  guns  and  large  stock  of  ammunition 
and  rifles ,  was  taken ;  many  railwaj^  trucks  with  camp  equipment 
and  provision  also  fell  into  our  hands,  but  the  engines  got  away. 

I  cannot  delay  over  the  next  fifteen  days'  work.  It  was  hot 
and  hard  on  all  ranks,  for  the  very  success  which  had  attended 
these  opening  moves  in  the  campaign  had  imposed  upon  men 
and  animals  exceptional  difficulties.  Twenty  miles  of  the 
canal  were  in  our  possession  up  to  the  lock  at  Kassassin,  its 
weakest  spot,  but  it  required  no  small  strain  upon  troops  and 
transport  to  keep  the  force  necessary  to  hold  that  important 
point  supplied  with  food  and  forage  over  these  twenty  miles  of 
shifting  sands,  when  the  canal  was  dammed  and  the  railway 
interrupted.  When  these  obstacles  and  interruptions  had  been 
surmounted,  and  two  or  three  engmes  were  at  length  running 
on  the  railway,  the  concentration  of  troops  was  swiftly  accom- 
plished, and  on  the  evening  of  12th  September  the  Army 
Corps  was  in  position  at  Kassassin,  six  miles  distant  from  the 
Egyptian  lines  at  Tel-el-Kebir. 

One  had  been  kept  so  busy  during  these  preparatory  days 
that  there  was  little  time  to  give  to  matters  of  policy  or  politics 
outside  the  actual  labour.     It  was  only  on  an  occasional  evening 


228    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

that  one  could  get  away  for  a  ride  in  the  twilight  over  the  sand 
hills  outside  Ismaiha.  It  was  a  strange  sight  to  see  on  those 
occasions  more  than  one  hundred  large  ocean-going  steamers 
lying  packed  together  within  the  compass  of  Lake  Timsah, 
their  lights  at  night  being  visible  over  the  desert  for  long 
distances.  It  often  occurred  to  me  to  wonder  why  no  attempt 
was  made  by  the  Egyptians  to  move  a  light  column  with  a  few 
guns  from  Salahiyeh,  only  eighteen  miles  distant  to  the  north- 
west, over  a  good  hard  desert,  and  fire  twenty  or  thirty  shells 
among  those  steamers  packed  like  herrmgs  in  a  barrel.  There 
was  a  Pasha  with  some  eighteen  thousand  men  and  ten  or 
twenty  guns  lying  at  the  end  of  the  railway  at  Salahiyeh. 
AVhat  was  that  Pasha  about  all  this  time  ?  One  evening  in 
the  first  week  of  September  I  happened  to  be  out  along  the 
Sweet  Water  Canal  at  the  north  end  of  Ismailia.  At  a  point 
where  the  desert  approached  the  canal  a  small  group  of  Arabs 
and  camels  were  squatting  on  the  ground  under  the  trees  ; 
there  was  no  mistake  about  these  men  and  their  animals — 
children  of  the  desert,  all  of  them.  The  sheik  was  a  tall  and 
handsome  man  of  the  Howawak  tribe.  Presently  a  few  men 
of  rank  in  tarbooshes  came  along  in  the  twilight  and  passed  out 
into  the  desert  mounted  on  those  camels.  The  centre  of  that 
little  group  of  Egyptian  officials  was  Sultan  Pasha.  They 
disappeared  m  the  direction  of  Salahiyeh.  I  need  not  have 
troubled  my  head  about  the  general,  the  eighteen  thousand 
men,  and  the  ten  or  twenty  guns  at  that  place,  nor  did  I  after 
that  night.     We  wiU  go  on  to  Tel-el-Kebir. 

The  night  of  12th  September  fell  dark  upon  the  desert ;  there 
was  no  moon.  Stars  were  bright  overhead,  but  when  one 
looked  along  the  desert  surface  all  things  were  wrapped  in  a 
deep  grey  gloom  impossible  for  the  eye  to  pierce.  All  through 
the  afternoon  the  staff  had  been  busy  writing  copies  of  the  orders 
of  the  commander-in-chief,  and  striking  off  smaU  plans  showing 
roughly  the  formation  in  which  the  troops  were  to  move  from 
the  positions  they  were  to  occupy  ia  the  desert  lying  north-west 
of  the  lock  at  Kassassin  and  about  one  and  a  half  miles  distant 
from  it.  Things  went  on  as  usual  in  the  camp  during  the  day 
and  evening,  but  when  darkness  had  fuUy  closed  in  the  troops 
moved  out  from  their  camps  into  the  desert,  leaving  their  fires 
burning.     The   foint  d'appui  was   a   mound   known   as   the 


MARSHALLING  THE  FORCES  229 

*  Ninth  Hill '  on  the  level,  gravelly  ridges  north  of  the  canal 
and  railway.  At  this  spot  a  line  of  Engineer  telegraph  posts 
had  been  erected,  runnmg  due  west  for  a  thousand  yards. 
This  line  was  designed  to  give  a  marching  point  for  the  directing 
column  to  move  along  when  it  first  started.  When  the  end  of 
that  line  of  posts  was  reached,  the  direction  would  be  by  the 
stars  alone.  The  formation  adopted  for  the  movement  of  the 
Army  Corps  across  the  six  miles  of  open  desert  extending  from 
Ninth  Hill  to  the  lines  of  Tel-el-Kebir  was  at  once  simple  and 
yet  closely  calculated — simple,  in  order  to  meet  the  conditions 
imposed  by  a  moonless  night ;  thoroughlj^  thought  out,  because 
the  formation  in  which  the  Armj^  Corps  started  must  be  that  in 
which  it  would  engage  the  enemy  when  he  was  found,  as  it 
was  hoped.  There  could  be  no  manoeuvring,  no  afterthought, 
no  rectification  after  these  seventeen  thousand  five  hundred 
officers  and  men  with  their  sixty  or  seventy  guns  had  been 
launched  out  into  the  night  from  the  plateau  of  Ninth  Hill,  a 
gigantic  bolt  of  flesh,  steel,  and  iron  shot  westward  into  the 
darkness. 

The  march  and  the  attack  were  made  in  two  lines.  The  first 
line,  of  eight  infantrj'  battalions,  moved  in  two  distinct  bodies, 
separated  from  each  other  by  an  interval  of  twelve  hundred 
yards.  Both  of  these  bodies  marched  in  lines  of  half-battalion 
columns.  The  second  line,  moving  a  thousand  yards  behind 
the  first,  was  in  a  similar  formation  to  the  first  line,  but  con- 
tinuity between  its  brigades  was  maintained  b}'  a  line  of  forty- 
two  field  guns,  which  filled  the  twelve  hundred  yards  from  the 
right  of  one  brigade  to  the  left  of  the  other.  On  the  extreme 
right  of  this  infantry  and  artillery  formation  marched  General 
Drurj'-  Lowe's  Cavalry  Division,  with  two  batteries  of  Horse 
Artillery — twelve  guns  ;  while  on  the  extreme  left,  and  m  the 
lower  ground  of  the  canal  and  railway,  moved  the  Naval 
Brigade  and  the  Indian  Division.  The  entire  front  of  the 
formation  measured  from  north  to  south  seventy-four  hundred 
yards ;  its  depth  from  east  to  west  was  about  two  thousand 
yards.  From  the  desert  at  Ninth  Hill  to  the  lines  of  Tel-el- 
Kebir  was  all  but  four  miles  in  a  direct  line.  The  surface 
undulated  sHghtly,  but  maintained  a  general  uniform  level  of 
from  a  hundred  and  ten  feet  to  a  hundred  and  thirty  feet 
above   the   sea.     It  was   throughout   hard  enough   to   make 


230    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

movement  easy,  and  yet  sufficiently  soft  to  make  it  almost 
noiseless.  We  were  aU  in  position  by  eleven  o'clock,  lying  in 
the  desert  near  Ninth  HiU  as  silent  as  the  stars  that  seemed 
the  only  living  things  in  view. 

About  half-past  one  the  march  began  due  west.  We  went 
slowly  forward  for  less  than  an  hour,  then  halted  and  lay  down. 
It  was  a  sort  of  trial  mile  to  test  the  working  of  the  scheme, 
the  steering  of  the  great  mass,  and  its  discipline.  All  had 
worked  smoothly,  there  was  no  noise,  no  confusion,  everything 
had  gone  mysteriously  well,  as  a  clock  works  as  regularly  in 
the  night  as  in  the  daylight. 

During  this  halt  I  was  lying  on  the  sand  near  the  commander- 
m-chief  (he  had  told  me  to  ride  beside  him  that  night) ;  the  staff 
were  scattered  on  the  desert  close  by.  I  held  the  reins  of  my 
horse  twisted  round  my  arm,  for  the  drowsy  hours  had  come. 
We  had  been  at  work  aU  day,  and  it  was  easy  to  drop  off  to 
sleep  on  this  cool,  dusky  sand  bed.  I  had  a  second  charger, 
ridden  by  a  groom,  following  in  rear.  I  had  told  the  man  to 
keep  a  tight  hold  of  this  horse  at  any  halt  on  the  march,  for 
the  animal  had  a  nasty  temper,  and  a  way  of  his  own  on  all 
occasions.  I  tried  aU  I  could  to  keep  awake  during  the  halt, 
but  could  not  succeed  ;  the blmking stars  above,  the  vast,  dusky 
desert  around,  which  already  seemed  as  though  it  had  swaUowed 
our  host,  the  deep  silence  that  prevailed,  all  tended  to  produce 
a  state  of  semi-consciousness  or  partial  oblivion.  AU  at  once  I 
felt  something  moving  close  to  me.  I  was  wide  awake  in- 
stantly. Two  horses  were  there  beside  me,  the  one  fastened  to 
my  arm,  the  other  standing  beside  him,  saddled,  and  with  the 
reins  trailing  on  the  ground.  It  was  my  second  horse.  The 
servant  who  was  in  charge  of  him,  sleeping  a  hundred  j^ards 
behind,  had  let  my  horse  go,  and  the  animal,  more  intelligent 
than  the  man,  had  picked  his  way  through  sleeping  men  and 
horses  until  he  got  to  his  old  stable  companion,  with  whom  he 
stood  quietly — aU  his  temper  tamed,  and  his  rough  manners 
softened  by  the  strange  desert  night-world  in  which  he  found 
himself.  About  three  o'clock  we  began  to  move  forward  again. 
(My  groom  had  come  up  to  seek  me  m  consternation.)  The 
night  was  now  darker  than  ever  ;  the  stars  by  which  we  had 
heretofore  moved  had  gone  below  the  western  desert,  but  the 
Pole-star  was  always  there.     By  it  we  were  able  to  find  new 


MARCH  GUIDED  BY  THE  STARS  231 

lights  on  which  to  steer  west.  For  more  than  an  hour  now 
the  march  went  on  in  absolute  silence,  except  for  one  strange 
occurrence.  Suddenly  to  our  right  front  a  peal  of  wild  and 
hilarious  laughter  rang  out  in  this  deep  stillness.  It  ceased 
almost  as  abruptly  as  it  had  arisen.  One  expected  that  some 
alarm  might  have  followed  this  weird,  unwonted  outburst,  but 
the  void  was  all  still  again.  It  afterwards  transpired  that  a  man 
in  one  of  the  Highland  regiments  of  the  leading  brigade  of  the 
Second  Division  had  carried  a  bottle  of  very  strong  rum  with 
him,  and  his  repeated  application  to  this  source  for  sustaiu- 
ment  during  the  march  had  ended  in  a  hysterical  paroxysm. 
Fortunately,  we  were  at  the  time  more  than  a  mile  away  from 
the  enemy's  position. 

During  the  next  hour  the  strain  of  things  grew.  I  rode  on 
the  left  of  the  commander-in-chief.  He  had  given  the  leading 
of  the  staff  group  to  me.  As  one  by  one  some  guide-star 
dropped  into  the  mists  that  lay  deep  upon  the  horizon,  another 
star  higher  in  the  heavens  had  to  be  taken  for  direction,  and 
that  at  times  became  obscured  or  dimmed  by  some  passing 
cloud ;  but  at  no  time  was  the  Pole-star,  over  my  right  shoulder, 
and  the  star  in  front,  upon  which  I  had  laid  my  horse's  ears, 
hidden  at  the  same  moment.  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley  had  in  his 
possession  a  very  fine  repeater  watch  given  to  him  by  the  late 
Lord  Airey.  By  striking  this  watch  he  knew  the  exact  moment 
of  the  night,  and  as  the  minutes  between  four  and  five  o'clock 
began  to  strike  longer  numbers,  they  seemed  to  draw  into 
tighter  twist  aU  the  strands  of  our  expectations.  And  yet,  as 
I  can  see  it  now,  what  did  it  matter  to  this  old  desert  and  to 
these  older  stars  ?  '  Our  guides,'  we  thought  them.  Ours  ! 
Had  not  Moses  led  his  Israelites  here  three  thousand  years  ago  ? 
Had  not  Napoleon  marched  the  best  soldiers  known  to  the  world 
over  these  sands  and  under  the  same  stars  ?  Countless  Pharaohs 
had  driven  their  chariots  across  these  brown  ridges  ;  and  one 
day  did  there  not  come  along  this  route  into  Egypt  a  man 
leading  an  ass  on  which  a  woman  rode,  bearing  in  her  arms  a 
Babe,  who  was  to  be  a  wider  conqueror  than  they  all  ?  What 
did  our  little  night-march  matter  in  that  catalogue  or  context  ? 
Perhaps  the  poor  hysterical  Scottish  soldier,  whose  weird  laugh 
broke  so  rudely  upon  the  desert  silence  an  hour  before,  knew  as 
much  about  it  as  the  best  of  us  ! 


232    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

It  was  about  half-past  four  when  the  commander-in-chief 
told  me  to  ride  in  the  direction  of  Sir  Archibald  Alison's  High- 
land Brigade  and  teU  him  to  move  forward  as  rapidly  as 
possible,  as  the  entrenchments  must  now  be  close  before  us, 
and  the  daylight  could  not  be  far  off  behind  us.  I  took  ground 
towards  the  right  front,  and  soon  struck  full  upon  the  Highland 
Brigade.  It  was  a  moment  of  very  considerable  danger  and 
confusion  to  that  body  of  men.  An  order  to  halt  for  a  few 
moments  had  been  given  by  the  brigadier  a  little  while  earher. 
This  order  passmg  from  the  centre  to  the  flanks  did  not  reach 
the  outer  companies  for  some  moments ;  thus,  when  the  centre 
companies  halted,  the  outer  ones  still  continued  moving,  though 
keeping  the  touch,  as  it  was  caUed,  inwards.  The  result  was 
that  the  flank  battalions  wheeled  inwards  and  lay  down  m  a 
kind  of  half -circle.  When  the  word  to  advance  was  again  given 
in  a  low  voice,  they  moved  to  their  respective  fronts  and  came 
nearly  face  to  face  with  each  other.  A  terrible  catastrophe 
might  easil}'-  have  happened  in  the  case  of  raw  and  inexperienced 
troops  ;  but  discipline  was  good,  and  the  brigade  was  reformed 
in  line  by  the  efforts  of  the  brigadier  and  his  officers.  I  stayed 
with  Sir  A.  Alison  until  everything  was  straight,  gave  him  the 
message  to  push  on  with  all  possible  despatch,  and  then  turned 
to  find  my  chief.  I  had  counted  my  horse's  steps  in  coming  to 
the  Highland  Brigade,  and  calculating  that  the  commander-in- 
chief  would  have  continued  to  move  to  his  former  front,  I 
steered  a  course  south-west,  as  I  had  before  come  north-west. 
Captain  Maurice  had  accompanied  me  to  the  Highland  Brigade. 
WTien  we  got  to  a  spot  which  I  reckoned  to  be  in  the  track  of 
the  commander-in-chief's  route  I  pulled  up,  and  dismounted 
in  order  to  see  better  towards  the  east.  Presently  a  few  heads 
appeared  against  the  horizon.  We  were  straight  on  the  staff 
track. 

I  reported  what  had  happened,  but  that  the  brigade  was 
now  in  full  march  forward.  There  could  be  little  doubt  that 
we  were  now  not  far  from  the  enemy's  works,  but,  so  far  as  sight 
and  sound  went,  they  might  as  well  have  been  a  hundred  miles 
away.  At  no  time  during  this  dark  night  had  the  stillness 
of  the  desert  space  been  more  profound  or  the  darkness  deeper. 
This  desert  seemed  still  to  have  kept  embalmed  in  its  sands 
one  of  the  old  plagues  of  Egypt. 


FIRE  OPENS  233 

The  commander-in-cliief  decided  to  dismount  at  this  spot 
and  await  developments.  In  the  next  twentj^  minutes  I  could 
hear  the  repeater  repeating  its  minutes  frequently,  '  Four, 
forty,  forty-five,  fifty  '  ;  all  was  stiU  dead  silence.  Looking 
eastward,  I  thought  that  the  dawn  was  already  showing  in  the 
horizon,  but  it  was  a  dawn  such  as  I  had  never  noticed  in  the 
eastern  heavens  before.  A  large  shaft  of  pale  Ught,  shaped 
like  a  sheaf  of  corn,  and  of  the  colour  of  pale  gold,  was  visible, 
shot  straight  up  from  the  horizon  some  twenty  degrees  into 
the  heavens.  It  appeared  to  be  rising  from  where  the  sun 
would  be,  due  east.  I  called  the  attention  of  the  commander- 
in-chief  to  this  strange  foreglow  of  the  coming  day,  and  he  too 
believed  it  to  be  the  approaching  dawn.  It  was  in  reality 
the  Great  Comet  of  1882,  which  had  not  been  visible  before, 
as  the  comet  was  actually  going  round  the  sun  at  that  time, 
and  was  lost  in  the  sun's  raj's.  It  had  got  round  now,  and  its 
long  tail,  whisked  before  it,  had  become  suddenly  visible  to 
the  naked  eye,  while  the  head  was  still  lost  in  the  solar  raj's. 

We  mounted  and  rode  on.  We  had  only  proceeded  a  short 
distance  when  the  all-pervading  silence  was  broken  hj  a  single 
shot  to  our  right  front  ;  then  came  two  or  three  more  shots, 
and  then  a  thunderous  roU  of  musketry,  mixed  with  heavy- 
gun  fire,  swelling  from  our  right  front  far  along  the  western 
desert  on  either  side.  When  this  great  volume  of  fire  first  broke 
out  all  was  stiU  dark  ;  five  minutes  later,  in  that  short  dawn, 
the  eye  was  able  to  distinguish  objects  on  the  desert  within  a 
quarter  of  a  mile  ;  in  ten  minutes  the  landscape  and  the  line 
were  aU  revealed  to  us.  To  our  left  front  a  large  earthwork 
was  sending  shells  on  three  sides.  We  were  at  first  too  close 
to  it  for  damage  ;  but  it  soon  found  our  range — about  a  thou- 
sand yards — and  shells  began  to  fall  about  us.  This  earthwork, 
the  largest  of  any  in  the  enemy's  defences,  was  an  isolated 
redoubt  standing  at  least  a  thousand  yards  m  front  of  the 
main  Ime  of  entrenchments.  The  record  of  the  night-march, 
with  particular  reference  to  this  isolated  and  advanced  sentinel 
battery,  is  a  very  curious  one.  Had  the  march  of  the  Highland 
Brigade  of  the  Eleventh  Division  been  made  along  a  due  east 
and  west  line  from  Ninth  Hill,  some  portion  of  the  left  of  the 
brigade  must  midoubtedly  have  struck  the  work.  I  am  not 
sure  that  the  centre  of  the  line  would  not  have  come  fuU  against 


234    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER :  AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

it.  It  would  be  impossible  to  say  what  the  ultimate  effect 
upon  the  fortunes  of  the  day  would  have  been,  but  it  is  safe  to 
say  that  the  loss  to  the  assailants  must  have  been  out  of  all 
proportion  larger  than  it  actually  was.  I  shall  not  here  discuss 
this  question,  but  press  on  to  the  end. 

As  daj^ight  broadened  things  took  better  shape.  We  could 
see  that  the  large  work  immediately  on  our  left  front  stood  at 
a  considerable  distance  in  advance  of  the  main  line  of  works  : 
from  this  main  line  a  body  of  cavalry  was  coming  out  in  rear 
of  the  advanced  redoubt.  Our  big  group  of  staff  had  been 
ordered  to  scatter  at  this  time,  so  as  not  to  draw  too  con- 
centrated a  fire  from  this  redoubt.  The  commander-in-chief 
still  kept  me  by  him.  I  called  his  attention  to  the  movement 
of  the  enemy's  cavalry.  '  Order  the  squadron  of  the  19th 
Hussars  to  meet  them,'  he  said.  It  was  not  in  sight.  I 
galloped  back  to  meet  it,  and  they  went  forward  at  a  canter 
in  column  of  troops,  passing  within  three  hundred  yards  of 
the  eight-gun  redoubt,  and  offering  a  splendid  target  to  it.  The 
redoubt  fired  four  or  five  shots  as  the  squadron  passed  it,  but 
neither  man  nor  horse  was  hit.  When  I  rejoined  the  com- 
mander-m-chief  the  firing  of  musketry  and  artillery  was  in 
full  swing,  but  the  flashes  from  the  big  guns  were  dying  out  in 
the  increasmg  daylight.  We  galloped  to  the  right  front,  and 
soon  struck  the  main  line  of  works.  The  desert  was  here  dotted 
over  with  wounded  men,  chiefly  of  the  Highland  Light  Infantry  ; 
the  old  colonel  of  the  Duke  of  Cornwall's  was  down  with  a 
bullet  through  his  jaws.  Farther  to  our  right,  our  line  of  forty- 
two  guns  had  broken  into  columns,  and  the  leading  batteries 
had  already  entered  the  enemy's  line.  Galloping  through  the 
gaps  they  had  made  in  the  parapet,  we  were  soon  inside  the 
works.  The  detached  fort  had  continued  to  follow  our  course 
with  shells  ;  it  was  now  the  only  unsilenced  redoubt  in  the 
enemy's  line.  Inside  the  works,  the  desert  was  strewn  with 
dead  Egyptians,  dead  horses  and  camels.  The  sun  was  now 
well  above  the  horizon.  To  the  right  one  could  see  the  First 
Division  moving  quickly  in  regular  formation  across  the  desert. 
Portions  of  the  Second  Division  were  still  in  our  front,  descend- 
ing the  slopes  towards  the  railway  station  of  Tel-el-Kebir, 
and  to  our  left,  where  the  desert  sloped  to  the  railway  and 
canal,  the  wrecks  of  i\.rabi's  late  army  were  strewn  in  all 


AFTER  THE  BATTLE  235 

directions.  Down  the  slopes,  through  the  camps,  over  the 
railway,  and  across  the  canal,  the  white-clad  fugitives  were 
flying  south  and  west  in  dots,  in  dozens,  in  hundreds.  Desultory 
firing  was  going  on  everywhere,  but  actual  fighting  had  ceased 
thirty-five  minutes  after  the  first  gun  was  fired. 

It  was  about  6.20  a.m.  when  we  reached  the  canal  bridge  at 
Tel-el-Kebir.  Beyond  the  canal  lay  the  Wady  Tumilat,  a 
narrow  sheet  of  green  lying  between  two  glaring  deserts.  Two 
or  three  hundred  Highlanders,  a  squadron  of  cavalry,  and  some 
odds  and  ends  of  moimted  corps  had  just  arrived.  The  first 
thing  to  be  done  was  to  stop  the  shooting  which  was  going  on 
at  everything  and  often  at  nothing.  The  seamy  side  of  a  battle 
was  here  painfully  apparent  ;  anything  seemed  to  be  good 
enough  to  let  o£E  a  rifle  at.  Dead  and  wounded  men,  horses, 
and  camels  were  on  all  sides.  Some  of  the  wounded  had  got 
down  to  the  edge  of  the  water  to  quench  their  thirst  ;  others 
were  on  the  higher  banks,  imable  to  get  down.  Many  of  our 
ofl&cers  dismounted  and  carried  water  to  these  unfortunates, 
but  the  men  were  not  all  similarly  disposed.  I  heard  an 
officer  ask  a  man  who  was  filling  his  canteen  at  the  canal  to 
give  a  drink  of  water  to  a  gasping  Egyptian  cavalry  soldier 
who  was  lying  supporting  himself  against  the  battlement  of 
the  bridge.  '  I  wadna  wet  his  lips,'  was  the  indignant  reply. 
Close  by,  in  the  midst  of  her  dead  and  dying  fellow-countrymen, 
a  woman  attached  to  the  Egyptian  camp  was  washing  her  infant 
at  the  canal,  concentrating  her  attention  on  the  child  as  though 
to  steady  her  thoughts  ;  and  many  of  the  wounded  Egyptians 
had  managed,  as  they  lay,  to  cover  their  heads  with  pieces  of 
paper  to  try  and  keep  off  the  flies  and  the  scorching  sun. 

When  the  orders  for  the  movement  of  the  cavalry  and 
Indian  Division  to  Cairo  and  Zagazig  were  issued  by  the 
commander-in-chief  on  the  bridge  at  Tel-el-Kebir,  and  these 
two  bodies  had  started  on  their  respective  roads,  I  took  up 
my  quarters  at  the  lock-keeper's  hut  on  the  south  side  of  the 
bridge,  had  something  to  eat,  and  then  started  on  a  fresh  horse 
to  go  back  over  the  battlefield. 

The  saying  that  '  dead  men  tell  no  tales '  has  the  he  given 
to  it  on  every  battlefield  ;  this  one  was  no  exception.  I 
directed  my  course  to  the  part  of  the  field  and  the  entrench- 
ments  across  which   the   Second   Division   had  come.     Vast 


236     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

numbers  of  Egyptian  dead  cumbered  the  ground  from  im- 
mediately behind  the  parapet  where  the  Highland  Brigade 
entered  to  quite  a  mile  within  the  works  in  the  direction  of 
the  bridge.  This  portion  of  the  position  had  an  mner  double 
line  of  works  extending  obliquely  along  it,  facing  north,  and 
it  was  among  these  lines  and  gun  emplacements  that  the  dead 
lay  thickest.  They  were  often  in  groups  of  fifteen  and  twent}^ 
heaped  together  within  the  angles  of  smaU  works  into  which 
they  appeared  to  have  crowded  ;  the  main  line  of  entrench- 
ments had  also  great  numbers  of  dead  behind  it.  The  ground 
showed  everywhere  the  complete  nature  of  the  surprise  which 
had  overtaken  the  enemy.  Arms,  accoutrements,  uniforms, 
the  cotton  clothes  of  the  fellaheen,  boxes  of  cartridges  and  food 
— a  general  debris  of  everything  lay  exposed  upon  the  desert. 
Of  wounded  there  were  very  few  to  be  seen  ;  too  many  suc- 
cessive waves  of  armed  men  had  crossed  this  portion  of  the 
jfield.  The  sun  was  now  a  flaming  fireball  overhead.  I  had 
been  at  work  for  fully  twenty  consecutive  hours.  When  I 
returned  to  the  lock-keeper's  hut  at  the  bridge,  things  had 
not  improved  in  the  Wady  Tumilat.  Several  men  had  managed 
to  get  across  the  canal,  and  the  people  in  the  hamlets  had  been 
robbed  and  ill-treated  by  these  blackguards.  This  is  part  of 
the  performance  of  the  lower  sort  of  the  soldier-mind  :  to 
them  war  means  plunder.  It  has  always  done  so,  and  it  wiU 
always  do  so.  Indeed,  it  may  be  truly  said  that  the  instinct 
of  plunder  in  some  shape  or  form  is  the  strongest  passion 
among  men.  That  it  comes  out  in  war  is  only  justifying  the 
old  proverb  that  the  ruling  passion  grows  strong  in  death  ; 
death  had  been  very  plentifully  exhibited  that  morning  over 
these  three  miles  of  desert  from  the  Egyptian  lines  to  the 
bridge  at  Tel-el-Kebir. 

In  this  respect  I  do  not  imagine  that  the  instincts  of  man 
have  changed  much  since  Moses  marched  this  way  three  or 
four  thousand  years  ago.  If  anybody  should  be  disposed  to 
doubt  this  opinion,  I  would  ask  him  to  read  the  Life  of  Sir 
Neville  Chamberlain  at  pages  143-150  of  that  remarkable  work. 
Sir  Neville  Chamberlain  knew  the  realities  of  war  as  few  men 
knew  them  in  our  time,  and  when  he  raised  his  voice  in  a  vain 
protest  against  the  whole  horde  of  financial  civilian- warriors 
who  were  howling  to  let  loose  hell  upon  the  women  and  children 


SONS  OF  THE  SOIL  237 

of  the  Dutch  republics  some  ten  years  ago,  he  knew  what  he 
was  speaking  about. 

Somebody  said  of  the  Egj^tian  War  of  1882  that  it  was 
'  the  Counter-march  of  Moses/  Since  that  time  poor  Moses 
has  had  rather  a  surfeit  of  wars,  and  perhaps  to-day  he  is  not 
so  ready  to  embark  upon  them  in  a  general  '  damn  the  conse- 
quences '  sort  of  spirit. 

There  is  one  thing  which  I  should  like  to  put  on  record 
regarding  this  battle  of  Tel-el-Kebir.  Complete  surprise  though 
it  was  to  the  Egyptian  soldiers  behind  their  entrenchments,  thej'' 
nevertheless  fought  with  the  greatest  determination  against  over- 
whelming odds.  Not  a  moment  was  given  them  to  awake,  form 
up,  prepare,  or  move  into  position.  The  assault  fell  upon  them 
as  a  thunderbolt  might  fall  upon  a  man  asleep.  The  leaders 
in  whom  they  could  trust  were,  lilie  themselves,  fellaheen  ; 
few  among  them  knew  anything  of  war,  its  arts,  manoeuvres, 
or  necessities  ;  they  were  betrayed  on  every  side,  yet  they 
fought  stoutly  wherever  ten  or  twenty  or  fifty  of  them  could 
get  together  in  the  works,  m  the  angles  of  the  hnes,  and  in 
the  open  desert  between  the  lines.  The  heaps  of  dead  lying 
with  and  across  their  rifles  facing  the  up-coming  sim  bore 
eloquent  testimony  to  that  final  resolve  of  these  poor  fellows. 
Peace  be  to  them,  lying  under  these  big  mounds  on  the  lone 
desert — ten  thousand,  it  is  said.  No  word  should  soldier 
utter  against  them  ;  let  that  be  left  to  the  money-changers. 
They  died  the  good  death.  Dust  to  dust.  They  did  not  desert 
the  desert,  and  Egypt  will  not  forget  them. 


CHAPTER  XV 

Cairo.     The  fate  of  Arabi  in  the  balance.     Mr.  WUfrid  Blunt.     Leaving 
Egypt.     To  the  Saskatchewan  again.     The  Red  Man. 

All  resistance  in  Egypt  ceased  at  Tel-el-Kebir  on  13th  Septem- 
ber. Cairo  was  surrendered  on  the  14th  to  a  small  force  of 
cavalry,  and  on  the  15th  Sir  Garnet  Wolseley,  His  Royal 
Highness  the  Duke  of  Connaught,  the  staff,  and  a  battalion 
of  the  Guards  reached  the  capital  at  10  a.m.  Redvers  BuUer 
and  a  sapper  private  drove  the  engine  of  the  train  that  carried 
us  to  Benha.  The  scene  in  the  streets  near  the  railway  station 
was  a  curious  one.  Several  Pashas  and  officials  were  on  the 
platform,  and  we  waited  some  time  at  the  station  for  some 
formality  or  other.  BuUer  said  to  me,  '  Let 's  get  a  cab  and 
drive  to  the  Abdin  Palace,  where  we  are  to  live  :  I  am  very 
hungry.'  We  did  so,  and  in  a  quarter  of  an  hour  we  were  at 
the  palace.  There  was  only  an  old  Nubian  '  bowab  ■"  in  the 
place.  Not  many  Arabs  were  to  be  seen  in  the  streets,  and 
most  of  them  took  little  notice  of  us,  though  some  scowled, 
and  the  irrepressible  Arab  boy  hissed  vigorously  at  us  as  we 
passed.  The  Abdin  Palace  looked  the  most  enchanting  place 
of  rest  and  coolness  I  had  ever  seen.  What  a  change  to  those 
lofty  halls  and  broad  staircases,  cool  corridors,  gilded  ceilings, 
and  crystal  chandeliers  from  the  blinding  heat,  the  foul  dust, 
and  the  innumerable  flies  of  the  desert  !  But  all  such  things 
without  food  are  of  little  use  to  hungrjT-  men,  so  we  got  into  our 
cab  again  and  told  the  driver  to  go  to  an  hotel.  The  first  two 
or  three  we  tried  were  barred  and  bolted,  and  silent  as  the  grave. 
At  last  we  struck  one  in  which  there  was  a  '  bowab,'  and  after 
a  good  deal  of  talk  between  him  and  the  interpreter  he  con- 
sented to  open  the  door.  Yes,  there  was  food  in  the  house, 
he  said,  and  he  would  cook  some  breakfast  for  us.  In  half  an 
hour  he  had  an  excellent  omelette  and  a  bit  of  meat  served  up, 
and  he  confided  to  the  interpreter  that  he  knew  where  the  key 

23S 


CAIRO  IN  '82  239 

of  the  cellar  was,  though  that  door  was  also  sealed.  Most 
excellent  Nubian  !  Down  we  went  to  the  cellar,  took  one  bottle 
of  claret  from  an  old  dusty,  cobwebby  bin,  resealed  and  locked 
the  door,  put  up  a  paper  over  the  lock  saying  what  had  been 
done,  and,  having  duly  signed  it,  sat  down  to  breakfast.  We 
were  in  a  hurry,  as  there  was  plenty  of  work  to  be  done  at  the 
palace,  so  we  ate  our  food  and  drank  our  wme  without  delay, 
and  went  out  again  to  the  cab.  So  far,  aU  had  gone  weU  in 
the  cool  house,  but  once  in  the  sun  things  went  very  differentl5^ 
My  head  had  begun  to  swim  ;  the  carriage  seemed  to  be  always 
turning  a  very  sharp  corner  ;  my  companion  was  looking  at 
me  with  a  strange  look  on  his  face.  '  Old  chap,'  he  said,  '  I 
think  we  had  better  take  a  turn  through  the  city  before  we 
go  back  to  the  palace.'  I  quite  agreed.  At  that  moment  I 
would  not  have  met  the  commander-in-chief  for  a  good  deal. 
We  drove  about  the  half-deserted  streets  for  half  an  hour, 
and  the  effects  of  this  wonderful  old  heady  wine,  suddenly 
swallowed,  went  off  almost  as  quickly  as  they  had  come. 

Cairo  was  at  this  time  a  wonderful  place.  It  can  never  be 
again  as  it  then  was.  Moses  in  Levantine  form  had  not  yet 
come  back.  What  pictures  they  were,  those  streets  of  old 
Cairo  !  It  was  my  duty  to  hunt  out  all  the  tents  I  could  find 
in  the  storehouses  of  the  citadel  for  the  use  of  our  troops, 
as  all  the  camp  equipage  was  still  at  Kassassin.  Arabi's  late 
officials, although  they  were  all  coffee,  cigarette,  and  obsequious 
courtesy,  were  in  no  hurry  to  show  me  the  extent  of  their  stores 
and  camp  equipage,  but  I  kept  at  them  for  two  days,  until  I 
had  dug  out  sufficient  for  our  immediate  wants.  The  filth  and 
vermin  in  the  permanent  barracks  everywhere  made  it  perfectly 
impossible  to  put  European  troops  into  them.  At  this  work 
I  managed  to  see  a  great  deal  of  the  outer  side  of  Cairene  life, 
and  to  get  several  glimpses  into  the  inner  scenes  too.  I  had 
to  take  over,  with  Herbert  Stewart,  the  old  palace  at  Abbas- 
siyeh,  and  as  the  harem  of  the  late  Pasha  of  the  blood  was  still 
located  in  that  building,  the  work  was  a  protracted  one ;  for 
the  ladies  had  to  be  removed  from  room  to  room  before  we 
were  allowed  to  enter  the  apartments,  and  thus  we  were  playing 
a  sort  of  hide-and-seek  with  them  through  the  palace. 

In  a  short  time  our  men  were  comfortably  provided  for, 
chiefly  in  tents  on  Gezireh  Island,  and  then  we  had  time  to 


240    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

do  a  little  sightseeing  in  Cairo  and  its  vicinity.  Wonderful 
sights  some  of  them  were.  I  got  up  one  morning  very  early 
in  order  to  see  the  comet,  which  had  now  become  visible  at 
that  early  hour.  From  the  roof  of  the  Abdin  Palace  one  could 
see  the  whole  city  and  the  land  from  Mokattim  to  the  Pyramids. 
Before  day  came,  the  Great  Comet  stood  above  where  the  sun 
would  rise.  It  resembled  a  vast  wheat-sheaf  of  light,  or  a 
flaming  broom  sent  to  sweep  the  stars  out  from  the  threshold 
of  the  sun.  The  city  slept  in  the  shadows.  Then,  one  by  one, 
from  a  hundred  minarets  rose  the  cry  of  the  muezzin — the 
weirdest  wail  of  man  to  God  that  can  be  heard  over  the  world. 
Then  as  the  light  grew  stronger  the  old  domes  of  forgotten 
sultans  and  Mameluke  chiefs  could  be  distinguished  rising 
above  the  city  buildings  to  the  east  and  south,  and  looking 
westward  across  the  palm  groves  that  fringed  the  great  river 
one  saw  the  Pyramids  changing  from  grey  to  rose-pink  in  the 
growing  light — vast  and  clear-carved  as  though  they  had  been 
finished  yesterday,  and  had  not  saluted  the  sunrise  over 
Mokattim  for  twice  three  thousand  years.  '  If  you  make  the 
canal  from  Suez  to  the  Mediterranean  you  will  bring  the 
English  into  Egypt,"  said  Mehemet  Ali  in  his  old  age,  as  he  sat 
in  the  window  of  his  little  palace  in  the  citadel  looking  out 
upon  that  wondrous  scene  below.  Well,  they  made  the  Suez 
Canal,  and  the  English  came  into  Egypt  by  it,  and  their  bugles 
were  now  sounding  reveille  from  camp  and  quarters  in  the 
city  ;  nevertheless,  somehow  these  giant  sentinels  standing 
erect  in  the  desert,  who  began  their  watch  six  thousand  years 
ago,  seemed  as  they  reddened  in  the  sunrise  to  be  even  smiling 
at  the  thought  that  this  new  invader  of  the  Nile  Valley  was  to 
be  the  last  they  were  to  look  at. 

Nothing  in  the  world  has  lasted  as  Egj'-pt  has  lasted.  They 
wiU  tell  you  that  the  tombs  and  temples  of  the  Nile  have  defied 
the  tooth  of  time  because  of  the  air,  the  sand,  and  the  sun  of 
Egypt ;  but  far  more  wonderful  has  been  the  lasting  of  the 
Egyptian  people  amid  the  mud,  the  yellow  water,  and  the 
lentil  gardens  of  the  land.  A  thousand  invaders  have  swept 
this  Delta.  Egypt  has  rubbed  them  all  out  one  after  the  other. 
What  was  the  secret  ?  A  Turkish  officer  gave  me  the  only  clue 
to  it  I  ever  got.  '  When  a  man  of  my  regiment,'  he  said, 
'  comes  and  asks  me  to  be  allowed  to  marry,  I  ask  him,  "  Whom 


§\ 


ARABI  BROUGHT  TO  THE  ABDIN  241 

do  you  want  to  marry  ?  "  and  he  generally  replies,  "  I  want 
to  marry  a  Nubian  or  a  negro  "  ;  and  when  I  ask  the  reason, 
he  says,  "  Because  then  my  children  will  be  Turks  ;  whereas, 
if  I  marr}^  an  Egyptian  girl,  the  children  will  be  Egyptians."  ' 

You  look  in  vain  in  Egypt  to-day  for  any  distinctive  feature 
or  figure  of  Turk,  Circassian,  Mameluke,  or  Greek  ;  all  are 
Egyptian,  and,  strangest  part  of  it  all,  are  Egyptian  in  the 
face  and  form  of  the  type  which  you  find  graven  on  tombs  and 
temples  that  were  built  many  thousand  years  ago.  How  has 
this  result  been  arrived  at  ?  I  thmk  it  can  only  be  explained 
by  the  simplicity  and  the  uniformity  of  the  elements  out  of 
which  the  bodies  of  the  children  of  Egypt  have  been  built — 
Nile  mud  and  Nile  water,  fashioned  and  fertilised  into  Nile 
food,  through  the  agency  of  the  Nile  sun. 

On  the  18th  September  it  was  thought  necessary  to  move 
Arabi  Pasha  from  Abbassiyeh  to  the  Abdin.  The  most 
truculent  among  the  old  Circassian  and  Syrian  officers  in  the 
service  of  the  Khedive  soon  after  this  entered  Cairo,  and  their 
enmity  to  Arabi  was  so  bitter  that  his  life  was  in  danger  at 
their  hands.  A  very  base  and  cowardly  attack  and  outrage 
was  made  upon  him  one  night  in  his  prison.  There  were 
circumstances  connected  with  the  secret  history  of  the  con- 
stitutional party  in  relation  to  the  ex -Khedive  Ismail  and 
the  present  one,  Tewfik,  which  made  the  assassination  of  Arabi 
Pasha  quite  a  possible  contingency.  '  Dead  men  tell  no  tales  ' 
— nor  would  even  a  dead  '  Pasha  of  three  tails.'  The  next 
plan  was  to  get  Arabi  tried  by  a  court-martial  composed  of 
Circassian  and  other  officers  of  this  class,  and  sentenced  to 
death  as  an  Egyptian  in  rebellion  against  his  country  and  its 
ruler.  There  was  a  very  real  danger  that  this  course  might  be 
followed.  The  bondholder  would  not  be  strenuously  opposed 
to  it,  and  his  representatives,  who  were  then  in  the  ascendant 
in  Cairo,  made  no  pretence  that  this  course  would  not  have 
been  thoroughly  in  keeping  with  their  wishes.  A  number  of  our 
own  officers  were  also  in  favour  of  it,  but  there  were  others 
who  thought  otherwise.  I  remember  being  at  the  Abdin  when 
Arabi  was  removed  thither  from  Abbassiyeh.  A  large  group 
of  officers  had  gathered  in  the  verandah  of  the  building  to  see 
Arabi  arrive.  He  was  brought  under  escort  in  a  carriage. 
He  alighted,  and  began  to  ascend  the  steps  as  one  tired  and 

Q 


242    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

weary.  When  he  saw  the  group  of  officers  he  pulled  himself 
together,  drew  himself  up,  and  saluted  us  with  dignity.  I 
noticed  that  only  one  officer  besides  myself  returned  the 
prisoner's  salute  ;  that  one  was  General  Drury  Lowe.  I  was 
in  good  company. 

A  we3k  later  Khedive  Tewfik  was  brought  into  Cairo  under 
the  protection  of  our  troops,  and  for  several  days  after  his 
arrival  the  fate  of  Arabi  hung  in  the  balance. 

It  is  now  made  pretty  clear,  by  the  publication  of  papers  and 
private  correspondence  of  that  day,  not  only  that  the  putting 
to  death  of  Arabi  under  the  shelter  of  Khedivial  authority  was 
an  idea  perfectly  agreeable  to  persons  in  very  high  ministerial 
positions  in  England,  but  that  its  frustration  was  largely  due 
to  the  devoted  efforts  made  by  Mr.  Blunt  and  a  few  other 
friends  of  justice  at  the  time  in  London. 

Of  course,  I  could  know  nothmg  of  aU  this  in  Cairo.  I  was 
immersed  at  the  time  m  the  details  of  my  official  work  with 
the  troops.  Sickness  of  a  grave  character  had  broken  out 
among  the  army,  and  changes  of  camp  sites,  hospital  arrange- 
ments, etc.;  occupied  all  my  time.  But  m  the  evening  at 
our  mess  I  heard  the  fate  of  Arabi  frequently  discussed,  and 
it  was  easy  to  see  that  the  tide  of  opmion  was  flowing  strongly 
against  the  prisoner. 

It  was  announced  one  evening  that  the  chief  of  the  staff. 
Sir  John  Adye,  would  leave  for  England  next  mornhig  to 
resume  his  duties  at  the  War  Office.  A  thought  struck  me. 
I  had  known  Sir  John  many  years  ;  I  knew  him  to  be  a  straight 
and  honourable  soldier,  and  a  personal  friend  of  Mr.  Gladstone. 
It  had  become  quite  clear  to  me  by  this  time  that  the  larger 
part  of  the  information  which  had  been  transmitted  to  England 
from  Egypt  during  the  past  six  months  bearing  upon  this 
National  movement  had  been  either  grossly  exaggerated  or 
was  absolutelj^  false  and  misleading.  Many  of  the  men  who 
were  engaged  in  transmitting  this  information  were  profound 
haters  of  the  ministry  then  in  power,  and  particularly  of  their 
chief,  Mr.  Gladstone,  and  to  some  of  them  the  idea  of  making 
that  statesman  an  accessory  before  the  fact  to  the  judicial 
assassination  of  Arabi  was  possessed  of  a  sort  of  subtle  and 
refined  satisfaction.  It  is  curious  to  mark  now  in  the  pages 
of  Mr.  Blunt's  extraordinarj^  book  the  accuracy  with  which, 


A  LETTER  243 

in  my  own  small  sphere,  I  had  gauged  the  situation.  When  I 
got  to  my  room  in  the  Abdin  Palace  that  night  I  sat  down  and 
wrote  a  letter  to  Sir  John  Adye,  which  I  intended  to  hand  to 
him  next  morning  at  the  Cairo  railway  station  when  he  was 
starting  for  England.     I  began  : — • 

'  Nothing  but  a  very  strong  belief  in  the  necessity  of  doing  what  I 
can  to  avert  what  I  beheve  would  be  a  national  crime  makes  me 
now  write  to  you  upon  a  subject  far  removed  from  the  sphere  of 
military  duty  which  has  hitherto  given  me  a  claim  as  an  officer  of 
your  staff  to  communicate  with  you.  I  write  to  urge  you  to  tele- 
graph from  Alexandria  to  England  to  stop  the  execution  of  Arabi 
Pasha  (should  the  Court  which  is  sitting,  or  about  to  sit,  condemn 
bim  to  death)  until  you  have  arrived  in  England  and  are  in  a  position 
to  place  before  the  Government  a  full  view  of  the  Egjrptian  question 
as  it  will  then  have  taken  its  place  in  your  mind,  in  just  and  true 
proportion. 

'  You  may  ask  why  I,  holding  a  subordinate  position  on  the  staff 
of  this  expedition,  should  thus  take  up  a  question  removed  from  the 
class  of  work  I  have  hitherto  done  in  this  campaign.  I  would,  in 
the  first  place,  point  out  that  leniency  toward  men  who  have  been 
in  rebellion  has  seldom  been  thrown  away  in  history  :  the  wounds 
inflicted  in  war,  no  matter  how  deep  they  may  be,  soon  heal  compared 
to  those  which  are  left  in  the  memory  of  a  people  by  the  work  of  the 
scaffold.' 

Then  I  instanced  the  great  war  of  the  South  against  the 
North  in  America,  where,  after  four  years  of  tremendous 
fighting,  only  one  hfe  had  been  taken  on  the  scaffold,  and  that 
one  the  hfe  of  a  man  who  had  starved  to  death  and  cruelly 
maltreated  thousands  of  Northern  soldiers. 

'  If  we  go  further  back  in  history,  can  any  one  say  that  the 
execution  of  Ney  and  Labedoyere  made  the  Bourbon  throne  more 
secure,  or  gave  the  Settlement  of  Vienna  a  longer  lease  of  exist- 
ence ?  Did  St.  Helena  ensure  the  continuance  of  the  restored 
dynasty  ?  Had  there  been  no  St.  Helena,  there  might  have  been 
no  Second  Empire.  But  let  us  look  at  this  matter  from  another 
point  of  view.  In  what  light  wUl  history  regard  the  execution  of 
Arabi  ?  It  will  be  written  that  we,  a  great  and  po^^•erful  Empire, 
vanquished  this  man  and  then  surrendered  our  prisoner  to  the 
vengeance  of  weak,  and  therefore  cruel,  rulers.  The  voice  of  the 
civilised  world  \vill  be  against  us.  Legal  technicahties  and  petty 
quibbles  will  be  forgotten,  and  history  will  record  a  strong  verdict 


244    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

of  condemnation  against  us.  It  is  the  same  all  along  the  line.  It 
will  be  useless  to  say  the  act  was  not  ours,  we  cannot  get  rid  of  our 
responsibility  that  way  :   the  world  will  not  accept  the  transfer. 

'  There  is  another  point  and  I  have  done.  It  is  perhaps  a  selfish 
point.  Will  the  execution,  as  a  traitor,  of  the  man  against  whom 
all  our  immense  preparations  have  recently  been  made — the  seas 
covered  with  our  ships,  the  desert  with  our  men — will  the  execution 
of  the  object  of  all  this  preparation,  effort,  power,  as  a  felon,  redound 
to  our  own  proper  pride,  or  to  "  the  pomp  and  circumstance  "  of 
our  profession  ?  It  strikes  me  that  in  condemning  Arabi  to  the 
scaSold  we  cut  down  the  measure  of  our  own  achievement  to  a  very 
low  point.  Another  thing  I  can  foresee.  If  Arabi's  execution  should 
be  carried  out,  many  of  the  men  who  are  now  foremost  in  calling  for 
it  will  be  the  first  to  turn  round  and  fling  the  stone  of  reproach  at 
the  English  statesman  whom  they  hate  with  far  greater  intensity 
of  feeling  than  that  Avhich  they  bear  to  their  Egyptian  prisoner, 
and  they  will  not  fail  to  pursue  Mr.  Gladstone  to  his  grave  with 
the  cry  of  blood-guiltiness. 

'  I  must  apologise  for  the  length  to  which  this  letter  has  run. 
I  can  only  excuse  it  by  pleading  the  never-failing  kindness  and 
courtesy  I  have  received  from  you  whenever  my  duties  as  your 
staff  officer  brought  me  into  contact  with  you.' 

I  have  taken  this  letter  from  a  rough  draft  in  an  old  pocket- 
book  in  which  I  find  it  most  indifferently  pencilled.  I  sat  up 
all  night  writing  and  copying  it  out,  and  when  all  was  finished 
it  was  time  to  go  to  the  railway  station  to  see  the  old  chief  of 
the  staff  off  on  his  journey. 

I  handed  the  letter  to  him  on  the  platform.  I  thought  there 
was  a  look  in  his  eye  as  I  gave  him  the  document  as  though 
he  imagined  it  was  some  matter  of  personal  promotion  or 
reward  about  which  I  was  troubling  him,  and  I  just  said, 
*  Not  about  myself,  sir.'  I  never  heard  again  what  happened, 
but  the  trend  of  events  soon  satisfied  me  that  the  executioners 
were  not  to  have  it  all  their  own  quick  way  at  once.  At  the 
time  my  letter  was  written  (at  the  end  of  September),  the 
execution  of  Arabi  by  order  of  the  Khedivial  court-martial  had 
been  virtually  settled,  as  we  now  know.  On  27th  September 
it  was  announced  that  the  court  was  to  be  named  instanter. 
The  correspondent  of  the  Times  in  Egypt  reported  that  '  the 
Khedive,  Sherif  and  Riaz  Pashas  all  insist  strongly  on  the 
absolute  necessity  of  the  capital  punishment  of  the  prime 


AN  OPEN  TRIAL  FOR  ARABI  245 

offenders,  an  opinion  from  which  there  are  few,  if  any,  dissen- 
tients.' That  this  court  would  then  have  been  a  packed 
tribunal  of  the  very  worst  description  was  just  as  certain  as 
that  the  sun  would  rise  on  the  Mokattim  side  of  Cairo  the  next 
morning.  All  the  passions  were  now  in  entire  possession  of  the 
Egyptian  vantage  points  :  the  Levantine  jackal,  the  Khedivial 
eunuch,  the  bloodthirsty  Circassian,  the  Greek  money-lender, 
the  many  representatives  of  Dame  Quickly 's  old  and  highly 
endowed  profession — these  were  now  flocking  into  Egypt  in 
thousands.  With  them  were  coming  the  former  advisers  of  the 
EngHsh  Foreign  Office,  whose  persistently  erroneous  counsels 
had,  as  we  now  know,  produced  the  crisis  which  had  just  been 
closed  by  the  slaughter  at  Tel-el-Kebir.  Behind  these  various 
persons  and  professions  this  unfortunate  fellah,  Arabi,  had 
ranged  against  him  the  entire  tribe  of  the  Levites  and  High 
Priests  of  Finance,  foreign  and  Egyptian,  from  the  heads  of 
the  great  Jewish  banking-houses  in  Europe  to  the  humble 
'  schroff  '  money-changers  at  the  street  comers  of  Alexandria. 

With  all  these  powerful  interests,  schemes,  monopolies, 
policies,  and  professions  in  league  against  his  life,  the  chances 
of  the  late  leader  of  the  National  party  might  well  seem  hope- 
less ;  and  so  they  would  have  been  had  not  breathing  time  been 
given.  Whatever  may  have  been  Mr.  Gladstone's  earlier  pre- 
possessions against  Arabi  and  the  National  part}',  his  better 
angel  prevailed,  and  it  was  decreed  that  a  full  and  open  trial 
should  be  accorded  him.  That  was  sufficient  to  ensure  his 
ultimate  safety.  Neither  Turk,  Jew,  Infidel,  nor  imaginary 
Christian  could  face  the  publication  in  court  of  the  secret 
papers  of  which  Arabics  counsel  were  now  in  possession.  These 
papers,  cleverly  hidden  from  the  Khedive's  pohce  by  the  wife 
of  the  prisoner,  saved  the  situation.  Arabi  owed  his  life,  under 
Providence,  to  the  splendid  pluck  and  generous  purse  of  Mr. 
Wilfrid  Blunt ;  and,  looking  back  upon  it  all  to-day,  I  am 
not  sure  that  the  memory  of  Mr.  Gladstone  is  not  still  more 
deeply  indebted  to  the  same  gentleman. 

Many  days  of  that  time  live  in  my  memory,  but  one  has 
particular  place  in  it.  The  commander-in-chief  gave  a  huge 
picnic  at  the  Pyramids  of  Sakkara,  the  site  of  ancient  Memphis. 
We  went  by  steamer  to  Beddreshin  on  the  top  of  the  Nile  flood. 
More  than  one  hundred  Arab  donkeys  were  collected  under 


246    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

the  palms  on  the  west  shore.  These  were  quickly  mounted, 
and  away  we  went  for  Sakkara.  Nearly  all  the  higher  officers 
of  the  expedition  were  there — Sir  Garnet  Wolseley,  the  Duke  of 
Connaught,  Generals  Willis,  Graham,  Alison,  and  some  nmety 
others  of  various  degrees  and  qualities,  several  civilians  being 
among  them.  To  most  of  the  party  the  Egyptian  donkey 
was  still  a  strange  riding  animal.  If  you  tried  to  ride  as  in  an 
English  saddle,  discomfort  was  inevitable  ;  the  stirrups  were 
not  fixed,  and  if  j^ou  leaned  more  to  one  side  than  the  other  the 
shding  stirrup  leather  went  in  the  same  direction,  and  a  fall  in 
the  sand  was  the  result.  If  you  sat  well  back,  almost  over  the 
donkey's  tail,  and  threw  your  legs  well  out  in  front,  you  soon 
found  a  balance  which  seemed  to  fit  into  the  animal's  short 
gallop.  Prominent  among  our  uniformed  party  rode  Colonel 
Valentine  Baker  Pasha,  who,  for  some  reason  known  only  to 
himself,  had  come  to  the  picnic  in  a  fashionable  London  frock- 
coat,  a  tall  black  silk  hat,  and  the  rest  of  his  costume  in  due 
keeping.  AU  went  calmly  and  quietly  on  the  outward  journey. 
We  saw  aU  the  wonderful  sights  ;  the  house  of  Tei,  that  mar- 
vellous interior  wherein  all  the  industries,  the  duties,  the 
domestic  life,  and  the  amusements  of  the  oldest  civilisation  in 
the  world  are  graven  and  coloured  in  characters  as  clear  and 
vivid  as  though  they  had  been  done  yesterday.  Then  we 
dived  down  through  the  sand  of  the  desert  into  that  vast  rock 
warren  of  the  Serapeum,  which  the  genius  of  the  great  French 
Eg5^tologist  first  revealed  to  our  modern  world.  The  wonder 
of  it  all  was  endless  as  one  looked  at  these  vast  sarcophagi 
of  polished  syenite.  How  did  these  old  people  get  aU  the 
seventy  solid  single-stoned  tons  of  granite  or  porphyry  into  huge 
side  niches  which  open  from  the  vast  rock  gallery  under  the 
desert  ?  Greater  even  than  the  wonder  was  the  prodigious 
foolishness  of  the  whole  thing.  AU  for  dead  bulls  !  Stifled 
with  the  heat,  the  candle  smoke,  and  the  smell  of  bats  of  this 
subterranean  bull  warren,  we  got  up  at  last  into  the  desert 
air,  and  were  soon  at  work  upon  the  scores  of  good  things 
which  Cook  had  provided  for  our  refreshment  by  order  of  the 
commander-in-chief.  More  tombs,  more  pyramids,  more  stone 
carvings,  more  hieroglyphics,  more  sarcophagi,  and  at  last  we 
were  off  again  on  donkey-back  for  the  Nile.  Then  the  fun 
began.     The  donkey  boys  prodded  the  animals  behind,  some 


THE  FELLAH  IN  HIS  HOMELAND  247 

of  the  younger  guests  raced  their  donkeys  at  full  speed  in 
front,  the  burly  j&gure  of  Baker  Pasha  seemed  to  become  the 
central  point  in  the  human  stream  that  poured  over  the  desert 
sand,  and  then  along  the  top  of  a  great  embankment  built  to 
retain  the  waters  of  the  inundation.  \^Tiat  with  the  heat  of 
the  sun  and  the  stifling  atmosphere  of  the  many  sepulchral 
chambers  and  galleries  visited,  aU  our  clothing  had  become 
bedraggled  and  saturated  ;  but  if  this  was  the  case  with  khaki 
and  dust-coloured  homespun,  how  fared  it  with  the  black  frock- 
coat,  tall  silk  hat,  and  fashionable  nether  gear  of  our  Piccadilly- 
clad  Pasha  ?  Words  could  not  paint  that  picture  :  the  silk 
hat  was  bent  and  broken  by  frequent  contact  with  the  roof  of 
rock  cavern  and  tomb  chamber  ;  the  frock-coat  looked  as 
though  several  policemen  had  been  tussling  with  its  owner  ; 
the  legs  of  the  fashionably  cut  trousers  had  worked  up  under 
the  exigencies  of  the  donkey  saddle  until  the  ankles  were 
where  the  knees  ought  to  have  been.     There  was  no  stopping  : — 

'  With  hark  and  whoop  and  wild  halloo 
No  rest  Ben  Bam'se's  echoes  knew.' 

And  thus  we  reached  the  steamer  at  Beddreshin  satiated  with 
sarcophagi,  and  with  a  thirst  for  tea  such  as  only  the  dust 
of  six  thousand  years  of  mummy  powder  could  give  us. 

I  left  Eg3rpt  at  the  end  of  October  with  feelings  of  keen  regret. 
There  was  nothing  to  make  one  imagine  at  that  moment  that 
events  would  soon  arise  in  the  vaUey  of  the  Nile  which  would 
call  one  back  to  that  region.  The  Egyptian  chapter  seemed 
closed,  and  I  was  sorry  to  quit  a  land  in  which  the  ends  of  time 
seemed  to  be  always  touching  each  other  ;  the  oldest  reHcs 
of  man's  pride  and  power  lying  prone  in  the  dust,  the  latest 
efiforts  of  his  endless  husbandry  blooming  fresh  and  fair  over 
aU  the  garden  of  the  Delta.  More  interesting  to  me  than  the 
tomb  or  temple  of  the  dead  past  m  the  desert  was  the  endless 
picture  of  the  life  of  the  fellah  in  the  soft  green  level  of  his 
homeland  ;  his  fields  of  grain  m  their  many  stages  between 
seed  and  stubble,  his  plots  of  onions,  sweet-smeUing  beans, 
deep  green  clover,  cotton,  and  flowering  flax  ;  the  brown 
canal  banks,  where  the  cattle,  goats,  donkeys,  and  camels  stood 
in  the  shade  of  the  acacia-trees  in  the  hot  hours,  munching  the 
stalk  of  sugar-canes,  or  nibbhng  the  golden  '  tibbin  ' ;   the  big 


248    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

blue  buffaloes,  with  their  horns  and  noses  just  showing  above 
the  yellow  water  ;  and  the  date  palms  rustling  in  the  cool 
north  wind  round  some  old  marabout's  tomb,  whose  little 
dome  shows  very  white  over  the  green  fields  ;  and  under  the 
glorious  sunshine  the  great  flocks  of  white  pigeons  skimming 
over  villages,  the  strange  '  paddy '  birds  standing  in  the 
inundated  fields  ;  above  all,  man,  woman,  and  child  at  work 
everywhere,  sowing,  reaping,  weeding,  working  the  water 
wheel  in  winter,  and  in  summer,  when  the  Nile  is  pouring  down 
its  flooded  waters,  opening  the  little  watercourses  from  one 
field  to  another  with  their  feet  to  let  the  saving  flood  flow  on 
its  way. 

To-day  it  is  the  same  as  it  was  in  that  far-off  time  of  the 
Exodus,  when  Moses  told  his  people  that  '  The  land  whither 
thou  goest  in  to  possess  it,  is  not  as  the  land  of  Egypt  from 
whence  ye  came  out,  where  thou  sowedst  the  seed,  and 
wateredst  it  with  thy  foot  as  a  garden  of  herbs  ;  But  the  land 
whither  ye  go  to  possess  it  is  a  land  of  hills  and  valleys,  and 
drinketh  water  of  the  rain  of  heaven.' 

This  short  war  had  at  least  been  the  means  of  teaching  me 
a  few  great  lessons  which  were  of  use  later  on.  I  saw  and 
learnt  a  good  deal  of  the  machinery  by  which  the  thing  can  be 
done  to-day,  the  turn  given  to  the  wheel  which  sets  '  public 
opinion,'  as  it  is  called,  into  one  channel  or  the  other.  I  thought 
the  war  was  ended,  but  I  was  wrong.  Doubtless  the  Great 
Comet,  as  I  saw  it  that  morning  flaming  over  Mokattim,  knew 
more  about  what  was  coming  than  any  of  us  : — 

'  Comets  importing  change  of  times  and  states, 
Brandish  your  fiery  tresses  in  the  sky, 
And  with  them  scourge  the  bad  revolting  stars.' 

Quite  so  ;  but  which  had  been  the  bad,  revolting  star  in  this 
Egyptian  business  ?  That  one,  '  Canopus,'  famous  night- jewel 
of  the  southern  desert  ;  or  that  other  one  of  the  northern 
heavens,  '  Arcturus,'  which  had  guided  us  to  overwhelm  the 
sleeping  fellaheen  host  at  Tel-el-Kebir  ?  The  Egyptian  peasant 
in  revolt  against  his  plunderers,  or  an  English  Liberal  Govern- 
ment in  revolt  against  Liberalism  ? 

Some  day,  perhaps,  Egypt  will  help  us  to  answer  the  ques- 
tion.    She  has  ever  played  a  strange  part  in  the  destiny  of 


ACROSS  THE  ATLANTIC  AGAIN  249 

empires.  The  late  Lord  Salisbury  came  to  the  conclusion 
towards  the  close  of  his  life  that  we  had  an  unfortunate  facility 
for  '  backing  the  wrong  horse/  I  think  we  have  had  an  equal 
knack  of  generally  hanging  the  wrong  man. 

When  the  army  of  Egypt  returned  to  England  it  was  the 
recipient  of  a  good  deal  of  public  and  private  adulation  and 
reward,  which  lasted  through  the  winter  and  into  the  summer 
of  the  next  year.i  Then  things  assumed  their  old  shapes 
again. 

One  day,  in  the  late  summer  of  1883, 1  received  a  letter  from 
a  syndicate  of  company  promoters  in  the  city  of  London 
asking  me  if  I  would  undertake  a  journey  to  the  north  of  the 
Saskatchewan  River,  in  order  to  investigate  and  report  upon 
a  large  tract  of  land  in  that  region,  about  the  agricultural 
capabilities  of  which  thej^  were  desirous  of  obtaining  trust- 
worthy information  previous  to  the  formation  of  a  joint-stock 
company  for  its  future  development.  It  was  added  that  Lord 
Dunraven  had  been  also  approached  in  the  matter,  and  that 
he  was  willing  to  undertake  the  journey  provided  I  was  also 
agreeable  to  it.  Of  course,  I  accepted.  I  forget  what  the 
emolument  was  to  be — one  hundred  pounds,  and  out-of-pocket 
expenses,  I  think  ;  but  that  didn't  matter.  I  would  have 
given  more  than  I  could  then  afford  to  give  merely  to  see  again 
the  great  prairies  and  the  pine  forests  of  my  earlier  days. 

The  season  of  the  year,  the  autumn,  didn't  much  matter. 
Indeed,  nothing  matters  when  your  heart  is  in  a  matter. 

After  several  delays  I  left  Liverpool  on  the  6th  October 
in  a  brand-new  steamer,  the  Oregon.  She  was  the  latest  vessel 
then  off  the  stocks,  and  she  was  expected  to  break  the  record 
of  that  time,  which  she  did,  gettmg  into  New  York  on  the 
evening  of  the  14th.  Ship,  ship's  company,  passengers,  and 
ocean  were  at  their  best.  Every  human  item  seemed  to  be 
represented  in  the  two  hundred  passengers.  Beauty  and  the 
Beast  could  be  studied  close  at  hand.  The  charm  of  the  one 
lies  in  its  great  contrast  to  the  ughness  of  the  other  ;  but 
we  ought  not  to  say  the  '  Beast,'  for  there  are  very  few  beasts 
that  are  ugly  ;  it  is  the  mass  of  ugly  people  m  the  world  that 
makes  us  worship  beauty  when  we  see  it. 

It  was  interesting  to  look  at  America  again  after  an  absence 

^  I  was  honoured  by  being  appointed  extra  A.D.C.  to  the  Queen. 


250    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

of  ten  or  a  dozen  years.  The  sharpening  process  seemed  to  be 
stiU  going  on  among  the  population.  Is  it  destined  to  continue 
until  the  original  Caucasian  has  been  fined  down  to  vanishing 
point  ?  At  the  moment  it  seemed  to  me  that  the  Irish  and  the 
German  stock  were  having  the  reproduction  business  all  to 
themselves,  but  the  African  black  was  beating  them  both. 

I  got  away  up  the  Hudson  Valley  the  next  day.  Commercial 
enterprise  was  so  far  unable  to  spoil  the  glories  of  the  sunset 
skies  and  their  reflection  on  the  broad  river,  but  it  had  seized 
on  every  rock  and  headland  on  the  shores  to  defile  and  deface 
them  with  hideous  advertisements  of  pills,  purgatives,  and 
pick-me-ups  ;  even  the  moonlight  was  sought  as  an  illuminator 
for  these  horrible  concoctions.  One  asked  oneself  who  were 
the  men  and  women  who  swallowed  these  things  ;  and  were 
the  '  Castoria  Bitters  '  and  the  various  Capsicums,  the  names 
of  which  were  written  in  five-feet  letters  on  the  grand  old 
rocks,  the  real  grindstones  upon  which  the  sharpening  or 
attenuating  process  of  the  American  human  family  was 
going  on  ? 

Dawn  found  us  in  Vermont.  A  great  round  moon,  now  safe 
from  the  desecration  of  the  city  advertisement,  was  going  down 
in  fleecy  folds  of  vapour  bej^ond  Lake  Champlain  ;  the  big 
woods  were  glowing  in  their  autumn  tints  as  the  sun  came  up, 
mixing  his  bright,  new  golden  coinage  with  the  molten  moon- 
beams in  the  west.  Wliite  frost  was  on  the  ground,  and  there 
was  ice  on  the  little  pools  already.  There  was  no  time  to  lose 
if  the  Saskatchewan  River  was  to  be  crossed  free  of  ice.  I 
hurried  on  north,  for  the  objective  point  was  a  station  called 
Troy,  on  the  Canadian  Pacific  Railway,  from  whence  a  stage 
waggon  ran  once  a  week  to  Prince  Albert,  on  the  North  Sas- 
katchewan. If  I  missed  that  weekly  stage,  then  there  could 
be  no  chance  of  getting  to  my  destination  before  the  winter 
had  shut  up  the  land  from  human  observation.  How  easily 
can  our  best-laid  plans  be  jeopardised  !  At  Milwaukee,  on  the 
19th  October,  the  train  stopped  for  dinner.  After  the  meal, 
by  a  stupid  mistake  I  got  into  what  seemed  to  be  the  last  car- 
riage in  the  St.  Paul's  train.  A  moment  later  I  saw  the  carriage 
in  front  move  slowly  away  from  the  one  in  which  I  sat.  The 
northern  train  was  moving  so  very  slowly  that  I  thought  I 
could  catch  it  running,  for  we  were  still  in  Milwaukee  city.     I 


-Annan  &  Sons  Glascow  fr^rn:  a  liotocrnajiibf  Heath.Plymcr-ith 


^ 


A  FRIEND  IN  NEED  251 

was  out  and  after  the  train  in  a  second,  going  aU  I  could,  and 
neither  gaining  on  it  nor  losing.  I  had  a  large  overcoat  on, 
and  but  for  that  I  think  I  should  have  caught  it  up.  All  at 
once  there  came  a  break  in  the  track  on  which  I  was  runnuit^. 
caused  by  a  switch  block  in  the  rails  ;  over  that  I  jumped,  and 
as  I  lighted  at  the  far  side  of  the  obstacle,  bang  went  something 
in  the  calf  of  my  leg.  I  stopped,  dead  lame  ;  away  steamed 
the  express,  with  aU  my  baggage,  and  all  my  hopes  of  getting 
to  the  Saskatchewan  for  another  fortnight.  Suddenly  I  heard 
behind  me  the  roar  and  whistle  of  an  engine.  I  looked  back 
and  saw  a  single  locomotive  coming  on  my  line  of  raUs  at  a 
rapid  pace.  As  it  approached  I  noticed  that  the  driver  was 
leaning  out  to  one  side  of  his  engine  and  shouting  at  me,  but 
as  I  had  already  hobbled  out  of  his  track  I  didn't  know  wha.t 
he  wanted  of  me.  Then  I  saw  him  slowing  down,  and  I  guessed 
what  he  was  at.  He  pulled  up  suddenly.  *  Jump  on, 
stranger  !  '  he  shouted.  I  caught  hold  of  the  rail  of  his  engine, 
and  lifted  myself  by  it  to  the  driver's  platform.  He  gave  one 
glance  to  see  that  I  was  safely  on,  then  he  seemed  to  let  her  head 
go,  and  away  we  went  forward.  By  this  time  the  St.  Paul's 
express,  stUl  going  slowly,  for  there  were  numerous  street 
crossings  on  the  line,  was  a  quarter  of  a  mile  ahead.  Holding 
on  all  I  knew,  for  I  was  now  quite  out  of  breath,  I  gave  one  look 
at  my  good  friend.  He  was  a  big  strong  man,  with  a  great 
round  face  and  a  lot  of  hair  round  it.  His  eyes  were  steadily 
fixed  on  the  rails  ahead,  the  train  in  front,  and  the  crossing- 
places  ;  both  his  hands  were  on  the  stops  and  goes  of  his  engine, 
and  he  was  able  to  check  his  speed  or  let  go  as  he  pleased. 
When  we  got  clear  of  the  streets  he  let  out  fuU  speed,  and  was 
soon  within  a  hundred  yards  of  the  express,  which  so  far  had 
seemed  to  take  no  notice  of  us,  and  I  began  to  fear  that  my 
good  friend  would  give  up  the  stem  chase  in  disgust.  But  I 
heard  him  growling  something  about  *  going  to  St.  Paul  before 
he  'd  stop  ' ;  and  I  was  completely  reassured,  for  there  was  a 
light  in  the  big  eye  that  was  nearest  to  me  that  told  me  it  had 
now  become  altogether  a  personal  question  between  him  and 
the  express. 

As  though  to  bring  matters  to  a  climax,  he  now  let  out  his 
engine  to  a  full  gallop,  and  I  thought  he  was  going  to  ram  the 
train  in  front,  for  he  would  run  up  quite  close  to  it,  and  then 


252     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

suddenly  rein  in  his  charger.  AU  the  time  he  was  making  a 
wonderful  amount  of  steam  whistling.  At  last  the  express 
caved  in  and  pulled  up  ;  then  only  did  my  friend  relax  his 
stern  silence.  He  helped  me  to  get  down  from  his  engine. 
I  flung  a  five-doUar  note  on  to  the  floor  of  his  loco- 
motive, told  him  he  was  the  best  friend  I  had  ever  met 
in  the  world,  and  then  hobbled  to  the  last  carriage  of 
the  express,  and  scrambled  on  its  platform.  As  I  did  so 
I  saw  that  the  driver  had  quitted  his  engine  and  followed 
me.  He  piit  the  five-dollar  bill  on  the  platform,  saying, 
*  Thank  you,  stranger,  but  it  wasn't  for  that  I  did  it,'  and 
went  straight  back  to  his  engine.  In  another  second  we 
were  steaming  north.  I  then  saw  that  the  number  of  his 
engine  was  218.  When  we  got  to  St.  Paul  next  morning  I 
wired  to  the  stationmaster,  Milwaukee,  asking  the  name  of  the 
driver  of  218  engine  ;  the  reply  came  that  the  name  was  Bill 
Macauley.  It  was  worth  a  sprung  leg  just  to  have  met  such 
a  man.  The  passengers  were  very  kind.  They  had  been 
watching  the  race  with  interest,  and  one  of  them,  seeing  me  so 
lame,  brought  out  a  bottle  of  '  Pond's  Extract.'  According  to 
its  label  this  compound  cured  every  pain  and  ailment  of  man, 
woman,  and  child  ;  that  it  relieved  the  great  pain  I  was  then  in 
is  certain,  and,  though  lameness  lasted  for  many  days,  it  gradu- 
ally wore  wa5^  Of  my  good  friend  I  shall  have  more  to  say  later. 
I  got  to  Troy  station,  three  hundred  miles  west  of  Winnipeg, 
and  found  there  an  old  friend  waiting  for  me — another  Mr. 
Macauley,  this  one  an  old  officer  of  the  Hudson  Bay  Company, 
with  whom  I  had  spent  some  days  at  Dun  vegan,  on  the  Peace 
River,  thirteen  years  earlier.  The  stage  was  not  to  leave" Troy 
for  a  few  hours,  and  my  friend  had  his  two-horse  buggy  at  the 
station  to  drive  me  some  two  miles  to  his  fort  at  Qu'appelle, 
which  the  stage  would  pass  some  time  later  in  the  day.  I  have 
not  forgotten  the  beauty  of  that  drive  across  the  rolling  prairies 
from  the  railway  to  Qu'appelle,  in  which  one  was  brought  all 
at  once  face  to  face  with  the  old-remembered  glories  of  space, 
silence,  and  sunset  ;  with  the  extraordinary  clearness  of  the 
prairie  atmosphere,  through  which  the  blue  line  of  horizon 
lay  clear-cut  fifty  miles  away  ;  the  intense  blue  of  the  long, 
winding  lakes  ;  the  copses  of  yeUow  cotton-wood  ;  the  oak 
thickets,  now  crimson  in  the  Fall;  and  the  curious,  white  sand- 


THE  'CIVILISERS'  253 

stone  cliSs  to  the  north  of  the  lakes,  the  echo  at  the  foot  of 
which  had  made  the  early  French  fur  hunters  give  its  sweet- 
sounding  name  to  the  place  two  hundred  years  earHer. 

My  joy  at  finding  myself  once  more  in  a  lone  land  of  silent 
beauty  was,  unfortunately,  of  short  duration,  for  when,  three 
or  four  hours  later,  the  stage  stopped  at  the  Hudson  Bay  fort, 
I  saw  at  a  glance  that  I  should  have  as  companions  through  the 
three  hundred  miles  to  Prince  Albert  three  or  four  of  as  rough 
specimens  of  the  first-fruits  of  Canadian  settlement  as  could 
possibly  be  met  with  in  the  Great  West. 

That  evening  the  stage  stopped  at  a  lone  hut  named  O'Brien's. 
The  stage  manager  or  owner  was  of  the  party,  as  the  trip  was 
a  sort  of  pioneer  imdertaking  to  bring  the  Saskatchewan  into 
touch  with  the  new  civilisation  of  the  Pacific  railroad.  This 
new  civilisation  appeared  to  be  terribly  anxious  to  begin  its 
labours  ;  and  of  its  apostles  it  might  be  said  that  they  were 
hard  at  work  swearing  themselves  into  office  through  the 
whole  three  hundi-ed  miles  that  still  intervened  between  the 
railway  and  the  savagery  of  the  Saskatchewan.  As  there 
were  no  Indians  or  half-breeds  or  wild  animals  in  this  region, 
the  inanimate  things  of  hill,  wood,  water,  and  plain  received 
their  full  baptism  of  fire  at  the  hands  or  tongues  of  the  new- 
comers ;  the  driver  scattered  imprecations  on  everj'thing  ;  the 
lumberman  smoked  so  incessantly  that  his  benedictions  could 
only  take  form  in  occasional  words  jerked  out  between  whiffs 
of  tobacco  smoke,  but  they  were  strong  words  when  they  did 
come.  Of  wit,  even  of  a  coarse  kind,  of  humour  of  any  kind, 
there  was  none  among  these  men  ;  it  was  all  the  dull,  heavy, 
cursing,  spitting,  eructating,  and  smoking  kind  of  savagery. 
In  O'Brien's  hut  that  evening  I  thought  with  regret  of  the  old 
days  in  some  Indian  or  half-breed  camp,  where,  if  the  floor- 
space  and  the  head-room  were  no  larger,  the  study  of  human 
character  and  habit  was  infinitely  more  interesting.  When 
the  time  for  lying  down  came  I  took  my  roll  of  bedding  outside, 
and  had  a  capital  night's  rest  in  the  open  prairie  in  a  tempera- 
ture of  only  twelve  degrees  below  freezing-point.  I  was  up 
at  6  A.M.,  and  had  the  satisfaction  of  making  the  lazy  civiHsers 
get  up  too.  The  driver  was  inclined  to  be  aggressively  impre- 
catory, but  I  effectively  silenced  him  by  saying  that  if  he  would 
kindly  show  me  where  he  kept  his  oats,  I  should  be  glad  to  feed 


254    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

his  horses  for  him  every  morning  at  five  o'clock.  This  offer 
seemed  completely  to  change  his  mental  attitude  towards  me, 
and  I  found,  too,  that  whatever  might  be  the  prevailing  tone 
of  his  conversation  with  men,  he  was  uniformly  kind  and 
thoughtful  about  his  animals. 

On  the  28th  October  we  reached  the  South  Saskatchewan, 
at  the  same  spot  where  I  had  lost  my  little  black  riding  horse 
through  the  ice  just  thirteen  years  earlier.  It  was  strange 
to  look  again  at  this  and  at  other  old  scenes  of  camp  and 
adventure  in  those  times  of  former  travel.  Many  of  the  old 
things  of  that  time  had  gone  for  ever  into  the  Silences.  There 
was  not  a  buffalo  to  be  seen  from  Wmnipeg  to  the  Mountains  ; 
most  of  the  Indian  prairie  tribes  were  broken  up,  and  the  wild 
men  who  had  followed  the  great  herds  and  lived  on  them  were 
now  scattered  into  a  few  isolated  and  remote  reserves,  destined 
soon  to  disappear  altogether  from  the  land. 

One  thing  was  still  here  unchanged  :  it  was  the  twihght. 
Before  that  hour  came  the  stage  had  reached  its  stopping- 
place,  and  I  was  able  to  get  away  from  its  atmosphere  to  some 
neighbouring  hill,  or  by  the  edge  of  some  lakelet,  where  one  could 
look  again  at  some  of  the  old  sights,  the  great  red  sun  going 
slowly  down  over  the  immense  landscape,  and  leaving  the 
western  sky  a  vast  half  dome  of  rose-tipped  wavelets  from 
horizon  to  zenith.  Scarce  a  sound  but  the  splash  of  a  wild 
duck  on  the  placid  lake,  scarce  a  movement  but  the  motion 
of  a  musquash  swimming  in  the  rainbow-coloured  water,  his 
head  forming  the  beak  of  a  bird-of-paradise,  whose  gorgeous 
wings  and  body  plumage  were  the  widening  ripples  that 
followed  after. 

In  the  last  days  of  October  I  reached  the  land  north  of  the 
North  Saskatchewan,  which  it  was  the  object  of  my  journey 
to  see,  and  at  a  point  fifty  miles  north  of  the  river  I  turned  back 
again  to  the  south.  I  found  that  the  million  acres,  which  were 
to  become  the  property  of  the  syndicate  destined  to  exploit 
them,  foi-med  an  oblong  block  of  territory  tying  to  the  south 
and  west  of  the  sub-Arctic  forest  which  roughly  bordered  it  on 
two  sides.  The  Saskatchewan  made  the  southern  boundary, 
and  a  range  of  low  hills,  called  the  '  Thickwood  HiUs,'  the 
western.  The  land  was  of  good  quality,  suitable  for  cultivation 
or  grazing.     It  had  water  and  timber,  and  it  lay  between  two 


AN  OLD  ACQUAINTANCE  256 

thousand  to  two  thousand  five  hundred  feet  above  sea-level. 
The  trail  of  the  fur  traders  to  the  north  lay  directly  through  it. 
In  favourable  years  good  wheat  was  grown  on  it,  but  summer 
frosts  as  early  as  the  20th  August  had  often  injured  the  grain. 
On  the  whole,  looking  to  the  great  distance  which  intervened 
between  this  region  and  the  railwaj^s,  I  could  not  recommend 
that  it  should  be  made  the  basis  of  a  joint-stock  company, 
the  capital  of  which  was  to  be  one  to  two  million  doUars.  That 
was  the  nature  of  the  report  which  I  submitted  when  I  returned 
to  London.  But  of  this  more  anon  ;  I  have  stiU  to  get  back 
there  in  this  narrative. 

In  the  Indian  reservation  I  found  my  old  acquaintance, 
Mistawassis,  the  Cree  chief  of  my  former  visit.  Once  a  man  of 
fame  and  influence  over  the  prairies,  he  was  now  reduced  to  a 
very  miserable  condition.  His  story,  told  m  his  own  way, 
put  the  whole  question,  as  Indian  story  always  did,  in  short 
and  true  language. 

*  In  the  old  daj's,'  he  said,  '  before  the  Canadians  came, 
we  had  food  and  clothes.  At  times,  it  is  true,  the  snow  caught 
our  people  on  the  plains  and  we  froze,  or  at  times  the  buffalo 
were  few  out  on  the  prairies  and  we  wanted  food,  but  that 
was  only  at  times  ;  now  we  are  always  in  want  of  food,  our 
clothes  are  fuU  of  holes,  and  the  winter  winds  come  through 
them,  to  find  our  bodies  thin  for  want  of  food.  I  can  go  back 
for  fifty  years,  but  no  time  Like  this  time  can  I  find.  Our  men 
and  women  put  on  rags  over  rags, but  it  is  only  hole  over  hole  ; 
we  cannot  get  warm.  I  once  had  plenty  of  horses,  but  they  are 
gone  one  by  one  to  buy  food.  Most  of  the  men  who  came  to 
this  reserve  with  me  are  already  dead,  and  only  six  j-ears  have 
gone  since  we  came  here.  They  (the  Government)  were  to 
have  put  glass  windows  in  our  huts,  but  only  the  frames  without 
glass  came.  Our  oxen  have  died  dragging  flour  here  from 
Prince  Albert.' 

Times  had  indeed  changed  with  poor  old  Mistawassis  since 
I  had  seen  him  in  1870.  He  was  then  the  owner  of  seven tj^ 
horses  ;  his  buffalo  robes  were  numerous  ;  he  had  hundreds 
of  bags  of  pemmican  wherewith  to  trade  with  the  Company  for 
tea  and  sugar.  Alas  for  the  Red  Man  !  it  was  the  same  here 
on  this  North  Saskatchewan  as  it  had  been  on  the  Assineboine, 
the  Red  River,  the  IMississippi,  the  Missouri,  and  a  hundred 


256    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

other  rivers  big  and  little  over  this  Great  West ;  and  yet  it 
was  not  one  hundred  years  since  the  '  Blackbird,'  chief  of  the 
Minatarries,  five  hundred  miles  south,  had  asked  that  he  might 
be  buried  on  the  top  of  a  hill  overlooking  the  Missouri,  so  that 
he  might  be  able  to  see  his  white  brother  the  trader  passing 
in  his  trading  boats  up  and  down  the  river. 

I  got  back  to  the  North  Saskatchewan  on  2nd  November. 
The  ice  was  now  forming  rapidly,  and  it  would  soon  set  in  the 
broad  channel,  but  we  got  over  in  the  '  scow  '  to  Carlton  with 
only  a  wetting.  The  question  was  now  how  to  get  back  to 
the  railwa3^  I  hated  the  idea  of  the  stage  again.  The  pro- 
spect of  another  five  days'  '  boarding  and  bunking  '  with  the 
*  civilisers  '  was  too  much  for  me.  The  land  north  of  the 
Saskatchewan  was  still  safe  ;  I  would  keep  to  it,  follow  the  old 
trail  by  Fort  Pitt  to  Edmonton,  and  then  make  my  way  to 
Calgary,  which  at  this  time  was  the  end  of  the  railway  east  of 
the  Rocky  Mountains.  It  was  a  good  six  hundred  miles,  and 
the  winter  was  fast  setting  in  ;  but  I  had  been  over  the  road 
thirteen  years  before,  and  some  old  friends  in  the  Hudson 
Bay  Company  were  still  alive  along  it.  Preliminaries  were 
soon  arranged  through  another  old  companion  in  travel,^  and 
on  the  same  afternoon  I  recrossed  the  river  to  the  north  shore, 
saw  the  '  scow  '  hauled  up  for  the  last  time  that  year,  and  with 
old  Dreever,  a  cousin  of  the  man  who  had  been  my  guide  in  the 
early  part  of  the  night,  thirteen  years  ago,  when  we  eluded  the 
search  of  Riel  and  Company  at  old  Fort  Garry,  I  turned  my 
head  westward  for  Edmonton.  We  had  an  American  buck- 
board  and  three  horses,  all  Dreever's  property. 

We  camped  that  night  by  some  large  willows  between  two 
frozen  ponds.  Wlien  twilight  came,  and  the  wind  blew  in 
gusts  through  the  willows  from  far  off,  and  I  saw  the  horses 
feeding  on  the  ridge  against  the  afterglow,  I  felt  a  silent  joy 
such  as  I  had  not  known  this  time  in  its  fulness.  Here  at  last 
was  the  lonely  land  still  untouched.  '  When  we  drew  up  the 
scow,'  I  wrote  that  night,  '  we  cut  the  painter  of  "  civilisation," 
but  the  savagery  lies  at  the  south  side  of  the  river.' 

For  ten  or  twelve  days  we  drove  at  a  trot  through  a  rolling 
land  of  mixed  wood  and  grass,  the  latter  now  yellow  like  ripe 
corn,  and  growing  in  places  three  and  four  feet  high.     The 

1  Mr.  Clarke,  Hudson  Bay  Company. 


CAMPING  OUT  257 

camping-places  were  good,  with  ample  store  of  dry  timber 
for  fuel.  '  What  a  delight  it  is  to  be  making  a  camp  once  more 
with  an  honest  man/  I  find  myself  writing  on  the  second  even- 
ing out.  On  the  3rd  and  4th  November  there  were  beautiful 
displays  of  the  aurora  before  daybreak  :  veils  of  radiance 
flung  across  the  stars  ;  great  showers  of  red  and  yellow  light 
pulsating  and  quivering  from  the  northern  horizon  to  the 
zenith.  The  dawn  would  sometimes  break  in  the  east  in 
strange,  deceptive  mixings  of  earth  and  clouds.  I  would  have 
forgotten  where  earth  and  sky  had  met  in  the  east  when  day 
closed  on  the  previous  evening,  and  throwing  back  the  blankets 
next  morning,  I  would  see  what  seemed  to  be  an  immense  lake 
stretching  far  south-east  to  north-east,  having  its  farther  shore 
clearly  defined  with  bays,  inlets,  and  islands  in  it,  the  nearer 
shore  only  a  short  distance  from  our  camp.  The  distant  shore 
seemed  to  rise  mto  mountains,  with  snow  on  their  summits, 
and  stars  above  them.  As  dawn  brightened  the  reflections 
in  the  lake  began  to  change  in  colour  from  grey  silver  to  molten 
copper,  and  then  as  the  sun  drew  nearer  the  horizon  the 
whole  phantasm  of  lake,  mountain,  and  stars  melted  into  the 
realities  of  the  daylight. 

Dreever,  the  driver,  like  all  the  good  men  of  mixed  parentage 
in  the  North- West,  had  in  his  nature  the  best  instincts  of  the 
wilderness.  He  possessed  the  power  also  of  telling  its  stories 
with  a  quaint  choice  of  words  which,  though  few  and  simple, 
showed  his  genius  for  reproducing  the  scene  he  wished  to 
describe,  with  great  and  touching  fidelity.  One  morning  we 
sighted  the  '  Swan  Lake,'  a  sheet  of  blue  open  water  lying  to 
the  right.  In  the  previous  summer  a  French  priest  had  come 
there  with  six  or  seven  Cree  Indians  to  hunt  moulting  geese 
and  ducks,  for  the  lake  was  a  great  haunt  of  wild  birds.  They 
made  a  small  '  dug-out '  bateau,  and  went  out  into  the  lake  ; 
a  gale  came  on,  the  bateau  overturned.  The  priest  swam  well, 
and,  one  by  one,  he  brought  the  Indians  to  the  overturned  boat, 
to  which  they  clung  ;  but  they  were  not  able  to  retain  their 
holds,  and,  one  after  the  other,  they  were  washed  off  by  the 
high-running  waves.  A  child,  his  especial  favourite,  was  thus 
washed  away  three  times,  and  was  as  often  rescued  and  brought 
to  the  drifting  boat  again.  At  last  he  too  was  swept  off  and 
lost.     Then  the  priest  said,  '  Why  should  I  live  1  '     All  those 

R 


258    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

who  had  come  out  with  him  in  the  boat  were  gone,  and  he  it 
was  who  had  made  them  come,  so  he  went  too.  There,  where 
the  white  strip  of  sand  showed  between  the  two  lakes,  the 
boat  and  the  bodies  were  drifted  in  by  the  winds,  and  the 
priest  and  the  Indians  were  buried  there. 

We  reached  Fort  Pitt  long  after  dark  on  the  evening  of  the 
6th,  We  found  here  a  strange  mixture  of  the  old  and  the 
new  peoples  ;  the  new  represented  by  a  Canadian  police  officer 
who  was  a  son  of  Charles  Dickens,  and  the  old  having  as  its 
champion  the  chief.  Big  Bear,  who  was  supposed  to  be  kept 
in  awe  by  some  ten  or  twelve  of  Mr.  Dickens's  police  stationed 
at  Fort  Pitt.  Mr.  Dickens  bore  a  striking  resemblance  to  his 
illustrious  father.  He  struck  me  as  having  a  keen  sense  of 
humour.  He  had  a  habit  of  laughing,  a  soft,  musical,  thought- 
inspired  laughter,  which  was  quite  peculiar  to  him,  and  which 
I  think  he  may  have  contracted  from  the  Indians,  in  whom 
I  had  occasionally  noticed  it,  the  result,  perhaps,  of  long- 
continued  silent  watching  and  thinking  upon  animals,  birds, 
and  the  ways  of  men  and  women  in  the  wilderness. 

Ruskin  has  somewhere  said  that  he  didn't  want  to  hear 
theological  discussions  or  sermons  about  the  possibihty  of 
miracles  as  long  as  he  could  see  the  sun  rise  and  set.  The 
Red  Indian  and  the  white  sick  man  represent,  perhaps,  the  two 
classes  of  men  who  most  frequently  see  the  sun  rise,  and  the 
other  world  is  not  far  off  to  many  of  these  people. 

Big  Bear,  who  was  supposed  to  be  under  the  peculiar 
supervision  of  Mr.  Dickens's  poUce,  had  persistently  refused 
to  go  upon  a  reservation.  '  Why  should  I  go  into  one  place  ?  ' 
he  used  to  ask  the  Hudson  Bay  officer  and  Mr.  Dickens.  '  Do 
I  not  see  all  the  Indians  who  go  into  one  place  die  off  faster 
than  ever  they  died  by  the  guns  and  knives  of  the  Blackfeet  ! 
Are  they  not  all  starving  ?  '  They  would  tell  him  then  that  he 
was  old,  and  that  that  was  the  reason  why  the  Canadian 
Government  wished  him  to  be  easy  and  comfortable  on  a 
reserve.  To  which  Big  Bear  would  reply,  '  It  is  true  that  I 
am  old,  but  I  have  fed  myself  for  seventy  j^ears.  I  can  stUl 
hunt  and  feed  myself,  and  I  will  stay  in  the  open  country  tiU 
I  die  ;  then,  when  I  am  dead,  you  can  put  me  into  some  one 
place  if  you  like.'  I  heard  here  the  same  story  I  had  been  told 
aU  along  the  trail  from  the  Touchwood  Hills  to  Fort  Pitt,  a 


THE  END  OF  THE  OLD  LIFE  259 

distance  of  seven  hundred  miles  as  I  had  travelled.  '  The 
Canadian  newcomers  were  so  rude  and  overbearing  in  their 
attitude  to  the  older  people  of  those  regions  that  there  was 
every  prospect  the  latter  would  rise  in  rebellion  and  try  to 
clear  the  new  people  out.'  Hudson  Bay  men  and  old  residents 
were  unanimous  in  holding  this  opinion. 

They  were  right.  Within  two  years  from  that  time  the 
rebellion  occurred.  It  was  easily  suppressed.  It  was  the  last 
flicker  of  the  old  life.  Henceforth  there  would  be  no  prairies, 
no  Indians,  no  moccasins,  no  old  stories  told  by  camp  fires ; 
only  barbed  wire,  the  grain  '  elevator,'  the  machine-made  boot, 
and  the  two-cent  newspaper. 

We  reached  Edmonton  late  on  the  night  of  the  12th  Novem- 
ber in  a  driving  snow-storm.  The  winter  was  now  well  in, 
and  for  the  last  three  mornings  the  thermometer  had  been 
below  zero  at  daybreak. 


CHAPTER  XVI 

The  Hudson  Bay  forts.  Winnipeg.  Back  to  London.  Trouble  on  the  Upper 
Nile.  Revolt  of  the  Mahdi.  Destruction  of  the  forces  of  Hicks  Pasha  and 
Baker  Pasha.  General  Gordon  sent  to  the  Soudan.  Gordon  and  the 
garrisons  in  danger.  Delay  and  vacillation  at  home.  Building  of  Nile 
'whalers.'     Ascent  of  the  Nile. 

Throughout  the  five  hundred  miles  covered  since  I  had  crossed 
to  the  north  shore  of  the  Saskatchewan  at  Carlton,  the  land, 
with  the  exception  of  the  establishment  of  Mr.  Dickens's  small 
police  party  at  Fort  Pitt,  was  exactly  as  I  had  left  it  thirteen 
years  before. 

At  the  Hudson  Bay  forts  some  '  old-timers  '  had  gathered — 
old  French  Canadian  or  Scottish  servants  of  the  Company,  who 
had  lived  all  their  lives  in  the  great  wilderness,  and  now  wished 
to  die  in  it.  These  old  people  had  their  memories  for  company, 
and  wonderful  memories  they  were.  Most,  if  not  all  of  them, 
had  seen  ghosts  at  some  time  in  their  lives.  It  might  have  been 
when  they  were  lying  in  camp,  storm-bound,  by  the  shores  of 
the  distant  Lake  Athabasca  ;  it  might  have  been  during  some 
awful  tramp  of  forty  days  and  nights  from  Engewa  to  Esqui- 
maux Bay  in  Labrador  ;  it  might  have  been  during  a  stay,  all 
alone,  of  a  month  in  midwinter  at  La  Pierre  House  on  the 
Upper  Yukon,  when  the  other  white  man  had  died,  and  there 
had  been  no  means  of  communicating  the  news  of  his  death  to 
the  next  nearest  white  man,  who  lived  three  hundred  miles 
away  on  the  Mackenzie  River ;  but  ghosts  the  old  men  had 
seen  some  time  or  other  m  those  long  years.  If  the  younger 
men  hadn't  themselves  seen  ghosts,  they  had  heard  their  fathers 
or  grandfathers  talk  of  them  often  enough  over  the  log  fire  in 
the  winter  evening.  Years  before  in  Red  River  I  had  heard 
a  quaint  story  of  old  Prudens  and  the  wild  goose — a  goose  story, 
not  a  ghost  story.  One  day  in  early  spring,  when  the  wild  geese 
were  passing  high  over  the  prairies  to  their  breeding  grounds  in 
the  Arctic,  old  Prudens  in  his  farmyard  on  the  Red  River  saw 


THE  OLD  AND  THE  NEW         261 

a  '  wavy '  detach  itself  from  the  flock  overhead,  and,  flying 
downwards,  ahght  in  the  middle  of  his  own  domestic  geese  in 
the  yard.  Orders  were  given  that  the  newcomer  was  not  to  be 
disturbed  in  any  way.  The  '  wavy  '  dwelt  with  his  domestic 
brethren  in  plenty  aU  that  summer  ;  but  when  autumn  came 
the  wail  of  the  wild  geese  was  heard  again  descending  from  the 
V-shaped  flocks  that  now  were  passing  south  to  the  swamp- 
lands of  the  Mississippi.  The  call  was  more  than  the  visitor 
could  resist  ;  for  one  morning  he  spread  his  wings  and,  soaring 
aloft,  rejoined  his  wild  friends  flying  southwards.  But,  when 
spring  returned,  so  too  came  the  '  wavy  '  to  take  up  his  summer 
station  once  more  with  the  domestic  cousins  in  the  farmyard. 
For  half  a  dozen  autumns  and  springs  this  curious  visit  was 
repeated,  until  at  last  a  springtime  came  but  no  '  wavy  '  came 
with  it  to  gladden  the  eyes  of  old  Prudens.  When  the  last 
flock  had  passed  over,  the  old  man  said  sorrowfully  :  '  He  hasn't 
come  back  :  I  shall  die  this  winter.'  And  die  he  did,  said  the 
story. 

At  Fort  Victoria  on  this  journey  I  met  a  young  Mr.  Prudens. 
I  asked  him  about  his  grandfather  and  the  wild  goose.  Yes, 
he  had  heard  the  story  often  told  by  the  old  people,  he  said, 
perhaps  it  was  only  foolish  talk  ;  but  Dreever,  my  driver,  didn't 
think  so.  He  liked  these  old  stories  better  than  the  new  ones 
which  had  already  come  into  the  Saskatchewan  in  the  form  of 
the  ten-cent  American  novel — the  Dime  Illustrated.  '  These 
novels,'  he  once  said  to  me,  '  they  don't  do  a  man  any  good  ; 
he  only  loses  his  sleep  by  them.'  I  didn't  know  about  that,  but 
I  do  know  that  I  have  learned  more  of  the  secret  of  life  from 
the  stories  of  the  Red  Man,  the  old  French  fur-hunter,  and  the 
old  soldier,  than  ever  I  gathered  from  the  pages  of  all  the 
up-to-date  and  sitting-up-at-night  novels  that  were  ever 
written. 

Despite  the  snowstorm  and  a  temperature  below  zero  at 
Edmonton,  I  found  that  '  a  boom  '  had  just  passed  over  that 
old  Indian  trading  station  ;  and  in  this  boom  my  recent 
acquaintance,  Johnny  Prudens,  had  had  a  part.  Prudens  had 
a  farm  near  the  fort.  The  Edmonton  '  boom '  had  been 
started  several  hundreds  of  miles  away,  at  Winnipeg,  and 
Edmonton  knew  nothing  about  it.  Suddenly  a  telegram 
arrived  offering  thirty  thousand  dollars  for  Prudens'  farm. 


262    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Prudens  was  away  fur-trading  at  Lac  La  Biche.  What  is  to 
be  done  ?  A  messenger  cannot  be  got  at  less  than  two  hundred 
dollars  who  will  go  in  search  of  Prudens.  Meanwhile,  the 
telegraph  operator  sees  his  way  to  a  deal  on  his  own  account. 
He  and  another  partner  start  out  to  meet  Prudens,  and  offer 
him  six  thousand  doUars  for  his  farm.  Prudens  sells,  knowing 
nothing  of  the  thirty  thousand  dollar  limit.  Then  there  is  a 
long  delay  before  the  deeds  of  sale  can  be  prepared  and  the 
money  raised.  At  last  this  is  effected,  and  all  the  parties 
concerned  go  to  Winnipeg  to  settle  matters  and  pay  the  pur- 
chase money.  But  by  this  time  spring  has  come,  and  the  boom 
has  subsided,  the  necessary  dollars  cannot  be  obtained  ;  the 
operator  has  to  put  his  recently  acquired  farm  up  for  sale  by 
auction — the  reserve  price  being  fifteen  thousand  dollars  ; 
the  audience  burst  into  guffaws  of  laughter.  Then  twelve 
thousand  dollars  are  tried  ;  no  answer.  Finally  a  purchaser 
is  found  at  eight  thousand  dollars,  less  expenses.  Wliat  Prudens 
eventually  got  out  of  the  transaction  was  not  stated  ;  but  the 
operator  was  glad  to  get  back  to  his  telegraph  station  the  owner 
of  a  new  buckboard.  At  Edmonton  I  was  on  the  borderland 
again.  Calgary,  my  rail  destination,  was  only  two  hundred 
miles  to  the  south  ;  and  boom  and  counter  boom  would  hence- 
forth form  the  staples  of  all  conversation.  How  often  I  was  to 
hear  the  boom  story  repeated  ;  the  first  fixing  of  the  new  city 
site  ;  the  plans  made  out  of  square,  corner  lots,  and  market- 
places ;  the  names  given  :  '  Rapid  City,"  '  Humboldt  City,' 
'  Manchester  City,'  '  White  Mud  City,'  etc.,  etc.  Then  I  would 
hear  the  story  of  the  man  who  went  in  a  buckboard  to  see  for 
himself  the  destined  centre  of  civiHsation  and  progress  which  had 
already  arisen,  it  was  said,  in  the  wilderness  ;  how  this  man  got 
on  the  stump  of  a  tree  in  the  centre  of  '  Manchester  City,'  and 
by  springing  on  the  stump  had  shaken  the  '  muskeg  '  and  quag- 
mire swamp  for  two  hundred  yards  all  round  his  footing  ;  how 
another  man  had  taken  his  old  German  wife  with  him  to 
prospect  '  Rapid  City,'  a  site  somewhere  on  the  South  Sas- 
katchewan ;  and  how,  when  daylight  had  revealed  the  whole 
sad  spectacle  to  the  old  lady,  she  had  burst  into  a  torrent  of 
reproaches  against  her  spouse,  finishing  up  with  imprecations 
upon  the  head  of  Horace  Greely,  whose  well-known  advice  to 
the  young  men  to  '  go  West '  had  been  the  origin  of  aU  her  losses 


SOUTHWARD  263 

and  disappointments.     '  If  I  meet  that  old ,  I  '11  give  him 

hell/  she  would  say. 

I  left  Edmonton  on  the  14th  November,  travelling  by  horse- 
sled  due  south.  The  snow  was  about  eight  inches  deep,  and  we 
sped  along  at  a  good  pace  over  the  same  traU  as  that  which  I 
had  followed  when  going  to  the  Rocky  Mountain  House  in  1870. 
Curiously  enough,  I  had  as  driver  the  same  excellent  half-breed 
who  had  been  then  my  companion — Johnny  Rowland — and, 
to  make  the  coincidence  stranger,  we  met  on  the  trail  Paul 
Foyale,  who  had  also  been  with  me  on  that  occasion.  On  the 
night  of  the  15th  we  reached  the  crossing  place  at  Battle  River, 
where  a  Cree  Indian,  responding  to  the  incoming  civihsation, 
had  built  himself  a  tiny  hut  of  wood  and  mud  on  the  bank  above 
the  river.  Coyote,  the  owner  of  the  hut,  was  away  hunting, 
but  his  famUy,  represented  by  a  very  old  grandmother,  a  wife 
and  some  children,  were  present.  There  was  also  a  baby,  four 
days  old,  who,  the  old  lady  informed  me,  was  her  sixtieth 
descendant  then  living.  Except  in  the  Egyptian  Mummy 
Museum  at  Boulak  I  had  not  seen  a  human  face  so  deeply 
wrinkled,  nor  hands  so  scraggy,  nor  nose  so  prominent ;  yet 
the  hair  was  still  jet  black  as  it  hung  down  in  wisps  on  either 
side  of  the  gaunt  cheeks.  The  baby's  mother  was  at  household 
work  ;  and  the  old  grandmother  was  alternately  engaged  in 
holding  the  baby,  and  expelling  a  small  black  puppy  dog, 
whose  work  in  the  world  was  to  roll  over  everji^hing  on  the  floor 
— threatening  even  to  precipitate  himself  into  the  frying-pan 
wherein  our  supper  was  being  prepared. 

We  started  from  Coyote's  at  dayUght,and  soon  ran  into  lighter 
snow,  for  a  '  Chinnook  wind  '  was  blowing,  and  when  we  reached 
the  Wolf  creek  the  ground  was  so  bare  that  the  sleigh  made  bad 
progress.  Next  morning,  the  snow  being  quite  gone,  we  packed 
our  things  on  a  loose  horse,  hid  the  sleigh  in  a  thicket,  himg  up 
the  harness  in  a  tree,  and  set  out  riding  the  other  two  horses 
for  the  Red  Deer  River.  Rowland  rode  bareback  ;  I  had  a 
saddle  borrowed  from  the  Coyote  family.  It  proved  an 
instrument  of  surpassing  discomfort.  Of  Mexican  origin,  it 
had  undergone  many  changes  at  the  Coyotes'  hands.  What- 
ever had  been  capable  of  decay  in  it  had  gone,  and  only  the  hard 
bone  framework  remained.  It  was  so  small  that  one  had  to 
sit  as  much  on  the  cantle  as  in  the  saddle.     It  was  only  a 


264    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

question  of  time  as  to  how  long  the  agony  could  be  borne. 
After  three  hours  of  inexpressible  pain,  we  reached  the  banks 
of  the  Blindman's  River,  found  a  cart  there,  and  with  its  aid 
got  on  to  the  Red  Deer  River  at  dusk.  '  I  have  found  a  new 
instrument  of  human  torture,'  I  wrote  that  night  in  my  diary, 
'  in  case  civilisation  reverts  to  the  ancient  practice  —  the 
Coyote  saddle.'  Two  days  later  I  reached  the  railway  at 
Calgary,  having  passed  on  the  second  day  from  the  mixed 
wooded  and  plain  country  into  a  region  entirely  devoid  of  tree 
or  bush — a  region  which  was  one  vast  sea  of  short  gray  grass. 
These  last  two  daj^s  were  of  easy  locomotion,  thanks  to  the 
kindness  of  a  Canadian  gentleman  named  Beattie,  who  had 
recently  settled  within  the  wooded  region  lying  north  of  the 
treeless  waste. 

Crossmg  the  Bow  River  at  sunset,  Mr,  Beattie's  waggon 
narrowly  escaped  an  accident.  Ice  was  running  in  the  river, 
making  it  difficult  for  the  four  horses  to  keep  their  footing  in 
the  strong  current.  One  of  the  leaders  fell  and  could  not  get 
his  legs  again  ;  so  it  was  necessary  to  cut  him  clear  of  the 
harness.  This  was  done  by  a  smart  J^oung  fellow  going  out 
over  the  backs  of  the  wheelers,  but  he  too  had  to  get  into  the 
water,  and  he  was  chilled  to  the  marrow  when  we  hauled  him 
again  into  the  waggon. 

It  was  dusk  by  the  time  we  got  across  the  Bow  River,  and 
drew  up  at  the  Calgary  House  in  what  was  then  a  small  village. 
The  first  thing  was  to  get  a  drink  of  spirits  for  the  half-drowned 
man  ;  but,  unfortunately,  in  Calgary  the  sale  of  aU  intoxicants 
was  a  crime  punishable  with  heavy  penalties.  I  took  the  hotel- 
keeper  aside  and  told  him  the  case  was  an  extreme  one,  and 
the  youth  might  easily  die  of  cold  and  wet.  We  arranged  a 
compromise  ;  the  hotel  man  would  serve  up  tea  all  round  for 
our  party,  but  in  one  cup  he  would  put  surreptitiously  a  glass 
of  the  forbidden  liquor.  Not  a  word  was  to  be  said,  for  there 
were  police  spies  about,  and  discovery  would  be  fatal  to  the 
hotel.  Half  a  dozen  cups  of  tea  soon  came  in  on  a  tray.  No 
one  said  anything  ;  there  was  a  profound  silence  as  the  tray 
went  round.  I  never  knew  exactly  what  happened,  but  the 
only  certain  thing  about  the  transaction  was  that  the  slip 
between  the  cup  that  held  the  whisky  and  the  lip  for  which  it 
was  intended  was  complete.     The  half -drowned  youth  got  only 


'    WITHIN  SIGHT  OF  THE  ROCKIES  265 

the  drink  that  cheered  ;  but  who  among  our  party  received  the 
inebriating  part  of  the  beverage  never  transpired. 

I  left  Calgary  next  morning  by  train  for  Winnipeg.  For  three 
hours  before  sunset  on  the  previous  evening  the  Rocky  Moim- 
tains  had  been  in  sight  to  the  west,  and  to  the  south  one 
could  see  over  the  level  waste  the  smoke  of  railway  locomotives 
rising  in  tall,  black  columns  above  the  clear  prairie  horizon. 

That  the  difficulty  in  the  case  of  the  stimulant  for  the  half- 
frozen  youth  the  previous  evening  had  not  been  imaginary,  a 
look  into  the  next  carriage  in  our  train  showed.  Two  men  of 
the  mounted  police  were  there  in  irons  on  their  way  to  prison. 
Except  for  the  irons,  no  one  could  have  imagined  that  they  were 
prisoners  ;  the  freest  and  easiest  famiharity  prevailed  between 
them,  their  escort,  and  the  other  passengers.  They  were  '  in  ' 
for  having  given  information  to  certain  liquor-sellers  that  a 
police  raid  was  being  organised  against  them,  and  that  fact 
may  have  been  accountable  for  the  exhilarating  effect  which 
the  handcuffs  appeared  to  exercise  upon  them.  Anyway  they 
were  jollity  itself,  and  it  was  only  the  escorting  constables  who 
looked  sad  and  depressed. 

At  midnight  the  train  reached  Medicine  Hat.  While  da}"- 
light  lasted  not  a  tree  or  twig  had  broken  the  long  monotony  of 
the  waste  ;  even  the  grass  had  disappeared,  and  great  dunes  of 
sand  showed  at  intervals  along  the  railway  line,  wind-blown 
ridges  mixed  with  patches  of  snow.  But  all  day  long  the 
wonderful  snowy  peaks  showed  weU  above  the  prairie  rim,  and 
when  I  looked  my  last  towards  the  west  over  a  vast  expanse  of 
snow-covered  plain,  they  still  rose  in  an  orange  gloammg  as 
grand  and  lonely  as  when  I  had  first  set  eyes  upon  them  in  the 
days  when  the  red  man  and  the  buffalo  were  almost  the  sole 
denizens  of  this  mightj^  waste. 

As  there  was  a  delay  of  a  couple  of  hours  at  Medicine  Hat, 
I  entered  a  small  wooden  saloon  oyster  bar  in  search  of  food  and 
warmth,  for  it  was  miserably  cold.  A  man  came  in  shortly 
after.  I  have  heard  a  good  deal  of  hard  swearing  in  my  day, 
but  never  anything  that  approached  the  prodigious  blasphemy'' 
of  that  Medicine  Hat  man.  He  particularly  swore  against 
some  place  near  Medicine  Hat  which  he  had  left  that  day, 
where  the  temperature  was,  he  averred,  with  many  impreca- 
tions directed  against  anj^thing  from  a  thermometer  to  an 


266    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

oyster  tin,  exactly  one  hundred  and  ten  degrees  below  zero. 
If  you  were  disposed  to  doubt  or  question  the  accuracy  of  that 
reading  of  the  thermometer,  the  alternative  was  like  that 
which  Cromwell  gave  his  Irish  prisoners,  only  that  Connaught 
was  left  out. 

I  got  to  Winnipeg  on  22nd  November,  and  left  it  on  the 
25th.  Our  passage  from  a  prohibition  country  into  one  of 
free  drinks  was  curiously  coincident  with  what  at  first  appeared 
to  me  to  betoken  a  tendency  towards  tooth-washing  in  the 
travelling  community  such  as  I  had  not  before  met  with  in  the 
west.  The  tumbler  on  the  washstand  of  the  sleeping  car  was 
in  constant  requisition.  After  a  time,  when  at  last  I  found  it 
in  its  proper  place  in  the  dressing-room,  there  was  a  strong 
spirituous  aroma  about  it  which  suggested  the  possibility  of 
its  having  been  put  to  other  uses  than  tooth-washing. 

At  Milwaukee  I  took  advantage  of  a  halt  to  look  up  my 
good  friend  Bill  Macauley  at  the  station  depot.  I  soon  found 
engine  218.  Bill  was  burnishing  his  steed.  I  introduced 
myself  to  him.  '  Was  you  the  man,"  he  said,  '  that  telegraphed 
the  superintendent  to  ask  my  name  ? '  '  Yes.  What  hap- 
pened ?  '  '  Wall,  he  came  along  one  morning,  and  ses  he  : 
"  Bill,  what  game  have  you  been  up  to  ?  "  "  Why,  Boss  ?  " 
ses  I.  "  Cause,"  ses  he,  "  there  's  a  chap  up  in  St.  Paul's 
wiring  down  to  know  the  name  of  the  driver  of  your  engine, 
and  saying  he  's  mightily  obliged  to  you.  What  for  ?  "  I 
told  him  it  must  be  the  man  I  found  lame  on  the  track,  and 
that  I  just  picked  him  up  on  my  engine  and  caught  the  express 
for  him.  "  Well,  Bill,"  ses  he,  "  you  mustn't  do  that  again, 
Bill."  '  Then  Bill  told  me  that  he  was  from  Belfast ;  came  out 
as  a  boy,  was  doing  well,  liked  to  give  a  hand  to  anybody  that 
needed  it,  and  never  gave  a  thought  to  it  again.     So  we  parted. 

I  reached  London  shortly  before  Christmas.  Serious  news 
had  been  received  from  the  Soudan.  The  profound  stupor 
which  had  fallen  upon  the  peoples  of  the  Nile  valley  one  year 
earlier  had  suddenly  been  broken  by  an  ominous  occurrence. 
Hicks  Pasha,  an  Anglo-Indian  ofiicer,  with  some  six  or  eight 
English  officers  and  ten  thousand  native  soldiers  and  followers 
(chiefly  men  of  Arabi's  old  army,  who  had  been  sent  in  chains 
to  the  Soudan  in  the  winter  of  1882)  had  been  destroyed  on 
the  march  from  the  Upper  Nile  to  Kordofan  by  a  Nubian 


SURPRISING  NEWS  FROM  THE  SOUDAN        267 

Mohammedan  Mahdi  at  the  head  of  revolting  tribes  who  had 
flocked  to  his  standard  from  all  parts  of  the  Soudan.  This  was 
probably  the  last  portion  of  the  Empire  from  which  news  of 
trouble  was  anticipated.  Everybody  had  been  talking  so  much 
of  the  love  borne  to  us  by  the  peoples  of  the  Nile  valley  that 
we  reaUy  had  come  to  think  that  Tel-el-Kebir  had  closed  the 
Egyptian  question  once  and  for  all,  and  there  was  nothing  more 
to  be  done  but  to  send  half  a  dozen  Englishmen  into  the  heart 
of  the  Soudan  to  ensure  its  easy  occupation.  The  conquest  of 
Arabi  had  given  the  god  Jingo  a  new  start,  and  some  among 
his  votaries  were  even  disposed  to  regard  John  BuU  as  his 
prophet — a  profitable  prophet,  grateful  and  comforting  to 
everybody  ;  London,  a  modern  Memphis,  erecting  statues  to 
its  specially  selected  BuUs,  and  setting  up  the  Golden  Calf  for 
universal  worship.  Nevertheless,  at  this  particular  moment, 
Christmas  1883,  the  inner  councils  of  London  presented  a 
strange  picture  of  weakness  and  indecision. 

The  question  of  what  had  to  be  done  in  the  Soudan  could 
have  been  decided  in  six  hours  by  the  same  number  of  experi- 
enced officers  assembled  at  a  round  table.  Whether  the  Soudan 
was  to  be  abandoned  or  retained  required  action  in  either  case. 
If  the  garrisons  were  to  be  withdrawn,  the  roads  for  retreat 
must  be  kept  open  at  any  cost.  If  the  revolt  of  the  Mahdi 
was  to  be  suppressed,  an  army  must  be  sent  to  do  it,  and  which- 
ever course  was  to  be  followed,  no  time  must  be  lost.  The 
tide  of  revolt  was  rapidly  rising  in  the  Soudan,  and  the  main 
lines  of  retreat  or  of  advance  were  certain  to  have  their  com- 
munications interrupted  by  the  increasing  volume  of  the 
revolt. 

But  if  there  was  indecision  in  the  governing  mind  in  London, 
the  perplexity  and  weakness  of  the  administrative  powers  in 
Cairo  were  ten  times  more  pronounced.  At  this  very  moment, 
the  19th  December,  they  were  sending  from  Cairo  to  Suakim 
on  the  Red  Sea  a  wretched  force  of  three  thousand  six  hundred 
nondescript  men  with  six  guns,  under  Baker  Pasha  (whom  we 
last  met  at  the  tombs  of  the  Bulls).  The  composition  of  this 
absurd  expedition,  and  the  commission  given  to  its  commander, 
are  to-day  accurate  measures  by  which  judgment  can  be  formed 
upon  the  foresight  and  ability  of  the  English  administration 
then  in  power  in  Cairo. 


268    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Baker  Pasha  was  '  to  have  supreme  civil  and  mihtary  com- 
mand in  all  parts  of  the  Soudan  which  might  be  reached  by 
his  forces/  He  was  commissioned  '  to  pacify  the  country 
between  Suakim  and  Berber  (two  hundred  and  forty  miles)  ; 
but  was  only  to  resort  to  force  after  all  other  means  of  con- 
ciliation had  failed/  It  wiU  be  sufficient  to  say  that,  three 
days  after  landing,  he  advanced  three  miles  from  the  shore 
with  his  three  thousand  men  ;  met  a  body  of  '  about  twelve 
hundred  '  Arabs,  armed  with  swords  and  spears  ;  his  forces 
were  almost  entirely  annihilated  in  a  few  minutes,  leavmg  in 
the  hands  of  the  Henandoa  Arabs  three  thousand  rifles,  six 
cannon,  all  their  baggage,  ammunition,  and  clothing.  An  eye- 
witness thus  described  the  scene  :  '  Cavalry,  infantry,  mules, 
camels,  falling  baggage  and  dying  men,  crushed  into  astruggling, 
surging  mass.  The  Egyptians  were  shrieking  madly,  hardly 
attempting  to  run  away,  but  trying  to  shelter  themselves  one 
behind  another.'  Baker  Pasha  and  his  officers  did  what 
they  could  to  stay  the  rout ;  then  they  galloped  for  the 
shore. 

Even  this  disaster  does  not  appear  to  have  awakened  the 
governing  minds  in  Cairo  and  London  to  a  sense  of  the  real 
situation  in  the  Soudan.  That  is  the  curse  which  invariably 
attends  upon  the  fool's  paradise  of  '  Make-believe.'  I  went 
frequently  to  London  in  these  days,  but  saw  nowhere  any  sign 
of  preparation  nor  heard  any  rumours  showing  that  there  was 
the  shghtest  realisation  of  the  true  state  of  matters  existing 
in  the  Soudan.  On  18th  January  1884,  General  Gordon,  as 
everybody  knows,  was  despatched  at  one  day's  notice  to 
Khartoum,  with  one  other  officer,  his  mission  being  to  bring 
away  the  garrisons  and  to  establish  settled  government  in  the 
Soudan.  Seven  weeks  had  then  passed  since  the  news  of  Hicks' 
disaster  had  been  received.  Could  human  fatuity  have  reached 
a  deeper  point  ?  A  week  after  Gordon's  departure,  I  received 
at  Devonport  a  summons  to  attend  the  War  Office.  I  made 
sure  the  order  meant  something  for  the  Nile,  and  I  was  never 
more  disappointed  than  when  I  found  it  was  only  a  confidential 
civU  mission  to  the  Government  of  Canada,  the  land  I  had  just 
returned  from.  I  made  it  a  rule  of  life  to  take  any  service 
that  was  offered,  and  never  to  ask  for  anything  except  active 
service.     In  the  present  instance,  it  happened  that  the  mission 


CONFUSION  AT  HEADQUARTERS  269 

to  Canada  which  I  was  now  asked  to  undertake  had  been 
accepted  by  Colonel  Stewart  of  the  11th  Hussars,  but  his  sudden 
departure  with  General  Gordon  for  Khartoum  made  it  neces- 
sary to  get  another  officer  for  Canada,  and  I  had  been  selected 
for  the  service.  I  sailed  from  Liverpool  the  first  week  in 
February,  had  a  fifteen  day  voj^age  of  exceptional  severity 
even  for  that  season  of  the  year,  and  in  the  course  of  the 
following  six  weeks  saw  a  good  deal  of  the  Canadian  administra- 
tion. Lord  Lansdowne  was  then  the  governor-general,  newly 
arrived,  and  the  veteran  Sir  John  Macdonald  the  premier 
of  the  Dominion.  Early  in  April  I  was  back  in  London,  and 
it  was  possible  to  take  up  Soudan  affairs  again. 

There  was  little  change  in  the  situation.  Unparalleled 
vacillation  of  purpose  had  continued  to  mark  the  whole  conduct 
of  affairs  ;  telegrams  were  flying  between  Cairo  and  London  ; 
expeditions  were  sent  to  the  Red  Sea  littoral,  only  to  be  recalled 
after  a  lot  of  useless  slaughter  had  occurred.  It  is  difficult  to 
go  back  now  after  these  twenty-five  long  years  are  gone,  and 
to  read  again  the  official  records  and  diaries  of  that  time,  the 
real  truth  of  which  still  remains  untold  and  unacknowledged. 
What  was  the  meaning  of  all  this  beating  of  the  air,  these  masses 
of  useless  verbiage,  these  opinions  and  counter-opinions,  these 
short  marchings  out  and  marchings  back  again,  in  which  eight 
long  months  were  wholly  wasted  at  a  time  when  every  hour 
of  every  day  was  precious  to  us  ?  Let  us  see  whether  now, 
with  the  experience  of  the  intervening  years,  and  the  recollec- 
tions of  my  personal  share  in  the  work  of  the  months  following 
my  return  from  Canada,  I  can  put  together  some  tangible 
theory  of  that  fatal  interval.  Three  salient  factors  have  to 
be  dealt  with  in  the  matter — the  man  Gordon,  the  men  who 
held  in  their  hands  his  fate,  and  the  physical,  military,  and 
economic  situation  of  Khartoum  at  the  time. 

Readers  of  General  Gordon's  life  will  remember  that  he 
spent  the  greater  part  of  the  year  1883  in  Palestine,  where  he 
was  engaged  in  visiting  the  sites  identified  with  the  history 
of  the  Old  and  New  Testaments.  How  Httle  his  mind  con- 
cerned itself  with  the  affairs  of  Egypt  those  who  have  read 
the  voluminous  letters  written  by  him  from  Palestme,  and  pub- 
lished by  his  sister.  Miss  Gordon,  will  not  need  to  be  reminded  ; 
but  to  the  agents  and  servants  of  the  Egyptian  bondholders 


270     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

the  presence  in  Palestine  of  their  great  antagonist  could  only 
appear  as  a  menace  to  their  designs  upon  Egypt. 

So  far  for  the  man  Gordon.  Let  us  turn  to  the  actual  position 
at  Khartoum  immediately  after  Gordon  arrived  there.  From 
the  first  day  of  his  arrival,  the  strategic  position  was  almost  a 
hopeless  one.  From  one  end  of  the  Soudan  to  the  other  the 
Mahdi  was  triumphant.  All  the  garrisons,  which  it  was  the 
particular  mission  of  Gordon  to  relieve  and  withdraw,  were 
sealed  up  within  their  dozen  towns,  hundreds  of  miles  apart, 
unable  to  hold  any  communication  with  each  other  or  with 
Khartoum  :  even  this  place  was  menaced.  Weeks  before 
Gordon  reached  Khartoum,  despairing  messages  had  been 
received  from  it  in  Cairo  along  the  thin  thread  of  the  telegraph, 
which  was  now  the  sole  frail  link  that  remained  between  Egypt 
and  the  Soudan,  Dongola  was  doubtful ;  Suakim  on  the  Red 
Sea  was  menaced.  The  line  Khartoum — Berber — Abu  Hamad 
— Korosko — Assouan  formed  the  only  route  by  which  com- 
munication was  possible,  and  formed  a  route,  too,  along  which 
it  was  easy  to  maintain  communication.  It  would  not  have 
cost  England  or  Egypt  twenty  thousand  pounds  to  make  that 
road  as  secure  against  the  Mahdi  as  was  the  remainder  of  the 
line  from  Assouan  to  Cairo.  Only  two  places  on  the  six 
hundred  miles  between  Korosko  and  Khartoum  required  looking 
to  :  Berber,  two  hundred  miles  north  of  Khartoum,  and  Abu 
Hamad,  three  hundred  and  thirty-seven  miles  from  it.  From 
Abu  Hamad  to  Korosko  the  desert  was  Egypt's.  I  do  not 
think  that  in  the  whole  range  of  modern  military  history  another 
such  example  of  stupidity  can  be  found  to  equal  the  omission 
on  the  part  of  the  governing  authorities  in  Cairo  to  secure  the 
route  Korosko  to  Khartoum  after  General  Gordon  had  passed 
along  it  to  his  destination.  At  whose  door  that  responsibility 
should  rest  I  have  still  no  means  of  deciding  ;  but  when  I  read 
again,  after  the  lapse  of  more  than  twenty  years,  the  voluminous 
despatches  and  telegrams  which  cover  the  momentous  months 
between  January  and  May  1884,  all  the  old  wonder  I  used  to 
experience  at  that  terrible  omission  comes  back,  and  I  ask 
myself  afresh  what  were  all  these  ministers,  agents,  generals, 
sirdars,  and  high  functionaries  in  Cairo  dreaming  of  when  they 
allowed  that  single  door  of  relief  and  communication  to  be 
closed  upon  the  man  we  had  sent  so  glibly  to  his  fate  ?     It 


CONFLICTING  COUNSELS  271 

was  so  easy  to  keep  the  door  open ;  two  thousand  men 
sent  to  Berber  via  Korosko  and  Abu  Hamad  would  have 
sufficed.  Berber  was  only  a  three- weeks'  journey  from  Cairo 
via  Korosko  ;  it  would  have  cost  twenty  thousand  pounds. 
From  the  day  Gordon  passed  Abu  Hamad  on  his  way  to 
Khartoum,  until  the  fall  of  Berber  sealed  his  fate,  there  elapsed 
a  period  of  about  sixty  days.  During  that  interval  the 
various  military  and  civil  authorities  in  Cairo  were  exercising 
their  minds  in  planning  costly  expeditions  to  Suakim,  which 
were  as  remote  from  the  possibility  of  reaching  Berber,  under 
the  conditions  then  existing  between  that  place  and  Suakim, 
as  they  were  from  effecting  the  occupation  of  Timbuctoo. 
Nay,  they  were  even  rendering  the  problem  of  communicating 
with  Khartoum  by  any  road  increasingly  difficult  on  every  side. 
Writing  in  his  celebrated  Khartoum  journal  on  22nd  Sep- 
tember 1884,  Gordon  has  entered  remarkable  words.  He  quotes 
the  Mudir  of  Dongola's  observation  to  him  in  March  that  the 
authorities  in  Cairo  seemed  desirous  of  '  riveting  the  tomb- 
stone over  Khartoum."  And  again,  four  days  later,  he  writes 
on  26th  September  :  '  It  is  a  curious  fact  that  any  effort  to 
relieve  the  garrisons  is  contemporaneous  with  the  expiration 
of  the  period  stated  in  March  regarding  the  time  they  could 
hold  out,  viz.  six  months.  There  are  some  ugly  suspicious 
circumstances  all  the  way  through.'  Undoubtedly  there  were, 
but  I  have  never  been  able,  then  or  now,  when  five-and-twenty 
years  have  gone,  to  say  where  the  ugly  suspicious  circumstances 
ended,  and  the  dense  stupidities  began.  My  own  personal 
reading  now  of  the  events  of  the  time  is,  that  there  was  only 
one  man  then  in  authority  to  whom  the  fate  of  Charles  Gordon 
in  Khartoum  was  a  real,  tangible,  ever-present  anxiety — that 
man  was  Lord  Wolseley,  With  him  I  had  many  interviews 
after  my  return  in  April  1884  from  my  second  visit  to  Canada, 
and  we  discussed  at  length  the  various  routes  by  which  Khar- 
toum could  be  reached  by  troops.  By  men  who  knew  what 
had  been  done  on  the  Red  River  Expedition  in  1870,  the 
practicability  of  ascending  the  Nile  in  boats  such  as  those  used 
to  reach  Fort  Garry  could  not  be  doubted  ;  but  we  were  only 
a  small  band  against  the  many  military  competitors  in  Cairo 
who  now  came  forward  with  proposals  for  expeditions  on  their 
own  account  to  the  Soudan. 


272    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

What  struck  one  most  about  these  proposals  was  the  fact 
that  the  mam  point  in  the  problem  was  almost  invariably  left 
out  of  the  calculation — time.  It  would  have  been  possible  to 
get  into  the  Soudan  from  any  part  of  the  coast  of  Africa  if 
time  had  been  of  no  importance  ;  but  how  was  the  relief 
of  Gordon  to  be  accomplished  by  an  English  force  in  the 
interval  of  the  few  months  still  remaining  to  the  garrison  of 
Khartoum  before  starvation  would  compel  it  to  surrender  ? 
The  cruel  part  of  the  proceeding  was  that  this  war  of  the 
ways  enabled  the  Government  of  the  day  to  postpone  the 
means  by  which  alone  relief  could  be  effected.  Through  May, 
June,  and  July  the  talk  of  relief  went  on,  but  not  one  effort 
was  made  to  give  money. 

At  last,  late  on  the  4th  August,  I  received  a  telegram  from 
Lord  Wolseley,  who  was  then  the  adjutant-general  of  the  War 
Office.  It  merely  said  :  '  I  want  to  see  you  here  to-morrow.' 
Of  course,  I  guessed  what  it  meant.  The  Nile  route  had  been 
selected  for  the  attempt  to  reach  Khartoum.  Next  morning 
I  was  in  PaU  Mall,  but  only  to  find  that  the  final  word  had  not 
been  spoken  by  the  Government.  Even  at  this  eleventh  hour 
aU  that  could  be  said  was  :  '  We  have  it  in  contemplation  to 
despatch  a  strong  brigade  of  British  troops  to  or  towards 
Dongola  by  the  Nile  route.  Proceed  at  once  to  find  four 
hundred  boats  similar  to  those  used  in  the  Red  River  Expedi- 
tion. If  you  cannot  find  such  boats,  you  will  have  to  build 
them.' 

Another  officer,  a  comrade  of  the  Red  River,  Colonel  AUej-ne, 
R.A.,  was  joined  with  me  in  this  belated  search.  A  bundle  of 
papers  was  handed  to  us,  but  the  purport  of  these  we  knew  only 
too  well,  and  a  hansom  cab  was  more  to  our  purpose  than  aU 
the  tons  of  writing  at  the  moment  on  the  tables  of  the  War 
Office.  We  laid  our  plans  on  the  5th,  and  by  the  evening  of 
the  6th  August  two  things  were  clear  :  not  in  England  could 
be  found  four  hundred  new,  sound  boats  fit  for  the  work  they 
would  have  to  do  ;  build  them  we  must.  In  the  bundle  of 
War  Office  papers  handed  to  us  was  one  in  which  the  Admiralty 
had  declared  that  the  construction  of  four  hundred  boats 
would  take  from  two  to  three  months.  I  had  been  too  long 
as  a  fly  on  the  great  wheel  of  English  officiaUsm  not  to  know 
something  about  the  limits  of  time  or  cost  given  by  our  great 


A  TRIAL  NILE  BOAT  273 

spending  departments  in  cases  such  as  this.  The  difference 
between  private  and  public  enterprise  in  England  in  all  these 
matters  can  be  measured  by  the  difference  between  an  express 
train  and  a  parliamentary  one.  With  only  the  aid  of  a  hansom 
cab,  we  found  that  some  Lambeth  boatbuilders  would  build 
boats  for  us  within  four  weeks  from  the  date  on  which  they  got 
the  order.  If  there  was  one  boatbuilder  on  the  Lambeth 
wharves  who  would  give  us  five  boats  in  four  weeks,  surely  aU 
England  could  supply  the  remaining  three  hundred  and  ninety- 
five  in  the  same  period. 

The  next  things  to  decide  were  the  shape,  size,  and  weight 
of  the  boat.  This  we  did  at  Portsmouth  on  the  7th  August. 
We  got  together  in  the  dockyard  the  load  the  boat  would  have 
to  carry — biscuit,  preserved  meat,  groceries,  tent,  arms, 
ammunition  sufficient  for  twelve  men  during  one  hundred  days. 
We  put  the  load  with  twelve  men  into  a  man-of-war  gig  in  the 
basin,  found  that  load  was  too  heavy  for  the  boat,  and  the 
boat  too  heavy  for  the  work  we  wanted  ;  and  then  and  there 
we  laid  the  luies  of  our  new,  ideal  Nile  '  whaler.'  She  was  to 
be  thirty  feet  in  length,  six  feet  six  inches  in  beam,  two  feet 
three  inches  in  depth  ;  to  weigh,  with  fittings  complete,  about 
one  thousand  pounds.  I  have  told  the  story  of  these  boats  in 
the  Campaign  of  the  Cataracts,  and  must  now  press  on  to  the 
long  road  we  have  before  us.  It  will  be  enough  to  saj^  that, 
before  any  official  sanction  could  be  given  to  spend  a  five- 
pound  note  on  this  work,  we  had  designs,  specifications, 
dimensions,  all  finished  ;  a  trial  boat  actually  being  built  at 
Portsmouth  in  one  week  ;  cargo  '  found,'  as  the  Official  History 
of  the  Soudan  Caynpaign  says,  '  to  answer  admirabl}'  '  ;  and, 
by  the  evening  of  the  11th  August,  we  were  satisfied  that, 
once  the  Government  sanction  was  given,  we  could,  by  '  touch- 
ing the  button,'  set  forty-seven  boatbuilding  firms  at  work 
from  Peterhead  round  the  English  coast  to  Liverpool. 

At  last,  late  in  the  afternoon  of  12th  August,  a  war  official 
came  to  the  temporary  office  in  which  I  was  working  to  summon 
me  to  the  office  of  a  high  parliamentary  Government  official. 
I  found  there  several  heads  of  the  contract  and  finance  depart- 
ments. 

The  parliamentary  official  began  by  observing  that  he  under- 
stood I  had  been  charged  with  inquiries  and  arrangements  as 

s 


274    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

to  boatbuilding  on  an  extensive  scale.  I  answered  that  that 
was  so  ;  that  our  work  of  design,  preparation,  and  inquiries 
had  for  some  days  been  finished  ;  and  that  we  only  awaited 
the  word  '  go  '  to  proceed  to  immediate  action.  Then  there 
came  a  shght  pause,  broken  by  the  high  ofl&cial  asking  in  a 
doubtful  tone  if  I  really  thought  those  four  hundred  boats 
could  be  buUt  and  shipped  from  England  in  the  time  he  had 
seen  stated  in  a  paper  of  mine — one  month  ?  I  answered  that 
I  had  not  much  doubt  of  the  general  correctness  of  that  esti- 
mate. Then  came  another  Uttle  pause,  followed  by  the 
official's  writing  a  few  words  upon  a  half-sheet  of  notepaper, 
which  he  handed  to  me.  I  read,  '  Colonel  Butler,  you  may 
proceed  with  the  construction  of  four  hundred  boats.'  That 
was  good,  but  his  next  spoken  words  were  better :  *  Gentle- 
men,' he  said,  turning  to  the  representatives  of  the  depart- 
ments of  finance,  contracts,  and  control,  '  I  have  assembled 
you  here  to  tell  you  that  Colonel  Butler  has  a  blank  cheque 
for  the  building  and  equipment  of  these  boats,  and  his  decisions 
as  to  expenditure  are  not  to  be  questioned.' 

I  bowed  and  retired.  That  evening  forty-seven  telegrams 
to  forty-seven  boatbuilders  went  out.  The  Nile  Expedition 
had  begun.  But  what  a  cloud  hung  over  it !  Turn  it  in  one's 
mind  in  any  way,  the  problem  came  back  to  the  same  point — 
the  12th  of  August !  How  easy  it  would  all  have  been  had 
this  decision  been  given  two  months  earlier  ! 

The  whole  tone  and  temper  of  the  Government  came  out 
in  the  despatch  which  was  sent  at  this  time  to  Egypt  by  the 
Secretary  of  State  for  War.  There  are  passages  in  that  docu- 
ment which  literally  take  one's  breath  away  when  we  read 
them  to-day.     This  : 

'  Her  Majesty's  Government  are  not  at  present  convinced  that  it 
will  be  impossible  for  General  Gordon,  acting  on  the  instructions  he 
has  received,  to  secure  the  withdrawal  from  Khartoum,  either  by 
the  employment  of  force  or  of  pacific  means,  of  the  Egyptian 
garrison,  and  of  such  of  the  inhabitants  as  may  desire  to  leave.' 

And  this  : 

'  Her  Majesty's  Government  are  of  opinion  that  the  time  has 
arrived  when  some  further  measures  for  obtaining  accurate  informa- 
tion as  to  his  (Gordon's)  position,  and,  if  necessary,  for  rendering 
him  assistance,  should  be  adopted.' 


OBSTRUCTION  275 

And  this  : 

'  Her  Majesty's  Government  have  therefore  come  to  the  con- 
clusion that  the  best  mode  in  which  they  can  place  themselves  in  a 
position  to  undertake  the  relief  of  General  Gordon,  should  the 
necessity  arise,  would  be  by  the  provision  of  means  by  which  such 
an  expedition  could  be  despatched  to  Dongola,  and,  as  circumstances 
at  the  time  may  render  expedient,  to  Berber  and  Khartoum.' 

And  this  : 

'  This  movement  could,  in  the  opinion  of  the  Government,  scarcely 
fail  in  the  first  instance  to  afford  the  means  of  obtaining  full  and 
accurate  information  as  to  the  position  and  intentions  of  General 
Gordon,  and  it  is  probable  that  such  a  demonstration  would  in  itself 
be  sufiicient  to  strengthen  his  position,  and  to  secure  the  co-operation 
of  the  tribes  which  have  not  joined  the  movement  of  the  Mahdi, 
to  such  an  extent  as  to  enable  General  Gordon  to  secure  the  principal 
object  of  his  mission.' 

I  think  the  despatch  from  which  these  passages  are  taken 
stands  absolutely  without  a  parallel  in  history  ;  the  force  of 
fiction,  make-believe,  and  pretence  could  go  no  further.  One 
can  realise,  too,  from  this  despatch  the  forces  that  were  against 
us  in  the  expedition  now  beginning.  The  permanent  Govern- 
ment, that  is  to  say,  the  vast  army  of  under-secretaries, 
assistant  imder-secretaries,  chief  clerks  and  their  assistants, 
were  opposed  to  us.  The  temporary  Government,  i.e.  the 
ministers  of  the  time,  were  at  best  lukewarm  in  support  of  this 
half  still-bom  child  of  theirs.  Perhaps  of  both  it  might  have 
been  said  that  they  were  more  passive  than  active  in  their 
attitude  towards  us,  but  even  that  means  much  where  the 
balance  between  failure  and  success  is  in  even  pause  of  poise. 
The  London  press  were  strongly  against  us,  but,  worse  than 
all,  British  Cairo,  civil  and  military,  were  to  a  man  against 
us.  Every  general  who  had  his  own  pet  plan  for  going  to 
Khartoum  had  the  same  reasons  for  not  liking  our  methods 
of  going  there  as  the  French  marshals  in  Spain  had  for  look- 
ing with  no  friendly  eye  upon  each  other's  operations  in  the 
Peninsula. 

As  for  the  attitude  of  the  civil  Government,  the  point  need 
not  be  laboured  ;  the  telegrams  exchanged  between  Khartoum 
and  Cairo  tell  their  own  story. 


276    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

From  the  12th  August,  when  official  sanction  was  given, 
the  work  of  boat  preparation  went  on  night  and  day  ;  and  so 
well  did  the  contractors  keep  their  appointed  times  that, 
within  the  time  specified  in  my  original  promise,  the  whole 
four  hundred  boats  were  dehvered,  put  on  board  of  eleven  ships, 
and  the  ships  had  actually  sailed  for  Egypt.  Nearly  one 
hundred  boats  were  clear  out  of  England  twenty-seven  days 
after  the  orders  to  build  them  had  gone  out.  Four  thousand 
tons  of  food  had  gone  forward  to  Egypt  in  the  same  time. 

I  reached  Cairo  early  on  25th  September,  and  went  straight 
to  the  Boulak  railway  station  to  see  some  sixty  of  our  boats 
pass  by  on  the  railway  waggons  to  Assiout.  That  morning 
one  hundred  of  them  passed  the  station,  not  a  boat  damaged 
or  a  plank  stirred.  They  were  due  to  arrive  at  Assiout  next 
night.  So  far  we  were  a  full  week  ahead  of  our  estimate  of 
time,  but  now  came  a  check  from  a  quarter  least  expected. 
On  the  'preceding  night  the  Egyptian  army  officials  had  sent  eighty 
waggons  loaded  with  beans,  lentils,  and  butter  from  Cairo  along 
this  route  to  Assiout,  thereby  blocking  all  access  of  our  boats  to  the 
Nile  for  three  whole  days.  When  I  reached  Assiout  on  1st  October 
the_..;block  had  just  ceased.  I  had  been  hoarding  the  days 
gained  as  a  miser  hoards  gold,  and  now  half  my  gains  had 
gone  through  this  action  of  the  Egyptian  army.  I  went  to 
the  telegraph  office  and  wired  the  chief  of  the  staff  at  Wady 
Haifa  :— 

'  Three  days  lost  through  action  of  E.A.  officials.  Would  it  not  be 
better  to  send  the  Egyptian  army  back  to  the  beans  and  lentils, 
than  to  send  the  beans  and  lentils  forward  to  the  Egyptian  army  ?  ' 

I  got  to  Assouan  at  daylight  on  7th  October.  At  noon 
thirty-two  of  our  boats  arrived  there  ;  that  evening  we 
anchored  them  at  the  foot  of  the  First  Cataract,  and  next 
morning  the  ascent  of  the  cataract  began.  It  was  to  be  the 
first  important  test  of  the  planks  of  the  boats  to  overcome  a 
Nile  rapid.  The  prophecies  of  failure  had  been  many.  It 
will  suffice  to  say  that,  when  evening  came,  thirty-two  boats 
were  at  the  head  of  the  cataract  anchored  opposite  Philae, 
not  one  having  suffered  the  smallest  injury  m  the  ascent.  Then 
on  to  Wadi  Haifa.  The  boats  were  now  arriving  hand  over 
hand,  and  on  18th  October  one  hundred  and  thirty  of  them 


WASTE  OF  PRECIOUS  TIME  277 

were  at  the  foot  of  the  Second  Cataract.     Here,  again,  the  plan 
was  marred  by  that  worst  of  all  combinations — the  men  who 
won't  see  and  the  men  who  don't  see.     They  were  in  high 
place,  and   I  was   powerless   against   their   ruling.      At   this 
point  that  ruling  was  destined  eventually  to  kiU  the  expedi- 
tion.     The    order  was  given    that   the   EngUsh  boats,  now 
numbering    one    hundred    and    thirty,   were   to   remain   idly 
at   anchor  at  the  foot  of   the  Second  Cataract,  while  some 
sixty    or    seventy    heavy    native    craft    were    to    have    the 
right-of-way    through    the    Bab-el-Kebir    (the   Big    Gate    of 
the  Cataract).     This  decision  cost  us  a  loss  of  ten  darjs.     We 
had,  in  fact,  been  doing  too  well  up  to  this  point.     It  was 
but  seven  weeks  since  these  boats  had  their  keels  laid  in  Ensr- 
land,  and  here  we  had  over  one  hundred  of  them  one  thousand 
miles  up  the  Nile,  and  the  remainder  were  coming  on  in  quick 
succession.     The  Second  Cataract  of  the  Xile  has  lived  in  my 
memorj'  since  October  1884  as  a  spot  in  the  world  where  I 
suffered  mental  torture  of  the  acutest  kind — that  which  results 
from  seeing  terrible  disaster  ahead  and  being  powerless  to 
prevent  it.     The  essence  of  the  problem  which  this  expedition 
had  to  solve  was  a  simple  one.     We  cannot  afford  to  lose  one 
hour  ;    we  are  two  months  too  late  at  this  work  ;    it  is  a  race 
against  famine  ;    there  is  still  a  certain  margin  of  time  left  ; 
in  what  manner  can  that  narrow  balance  be  best  used  ?     What 
is  the  earliest  date  at  which  a  brigade  of  British  infantrj-  can  be 
assembled  at  Korti  on  the  Nile,  readj^  to  march  across  the  two 
hundred  miles  of  Bayuda  desert  to  the  Nile  again  at  Metemmeh, 
a  place  within  one  hundred  miles  of  Khartoum  ?     Korti  was 
distant  from  the  Second  Cataract  three  hundred  and  thirty 
miles.     The  first  hundred  of  these  miles  held  eight  cataracts 
or  rapids,  aU  of  them  combined  forming,  in  the  opinion  of 
Commander  Hamill,  the  same  amount  of  obstruction  to  naviga- 
tion as  the  Second  Cataract  offered  in  its  total  of  nine  miles. 
There  were  thus  three  hundred  and  ten  to  three  hundred  and 
twenty  miles  of  good  water,  and  nearly  twenty  of  cataract 
and  rapid  between  the  two  places.     Now  there  was  no  difficulty 
whatever  in  taking  our  boats,  light,  in  fifteen  days  from  the 
head  of  the  Second  Cataract  to  Korti.     I  did  the  journey  myself 
in  that  time  travelling  light.     If  we  allowed  double  time,  or, 
say,  even  thirty -five  days,  for  boats  carrying  their  full  loads 


278     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

of  one  hundred  days'  food  for  the  men,  it  was  quite  possible 
to  have  placed  at  Korti  a  daily  average  of  two  hundred  British 
soldiers  in  twenty  boats,  each  boat  having  on  arrival  at  Korti 
sixty-five  days'  food  and  three  hundred  rounds  of  ammunition 
per  man.  To  replace  at  Korti  the  thirty-five  days'  food  eaten 
out  on  the  upward  journey,  it  was  only  necessary  to  have  added 
four  extra  boats  to  every  unit  of  twenty  boats.  These  four 
extras  would  have  returned  empty  from  Korti,  their  surplus 
cargoes  enabling  the  two  hundred  men  to  have  their  food  com- 
pleted for  one  himdred  days  onward.  This  simple  plan  would 
have  resulted  in  assembling  at  Korti,  by  a  date  which  I  shall 
presently  deal  with,  five  thousand  men  ready  to  march  across 
the  one  hundred  and  eight  miles  to  Metemmeh. 

Now,  remember  that  we  had  one  hundred  and  thirty  of  our 
'  whalers  '  at  Wady  Haifa,  below  the  Second  Cataract,  on 
18th  October,  fifty  of  them  on  14th  October.  It  took  three 
days  to  pass  boats  to  the  head  of  the  Cataract.  Had  we  been 
allowed  to  begin  passing  them  up  on  the  18th  October  at  the 
rate  of  even  thirty  a  day  (we  did  fifty  a  day  easily  later),  we 
should  undoubtedly  have  been  able  to  have  the  first  batch  of 
twenty-four  ready  to  embark  their  crews  and  supplies  on  the 
23rd  October.  Thirty-five  days  later,  viz,  on  the  27th  Novem- 
ber, this  unit  of  twenty-four  boats  would  have  been  at  Korti  ; 
every  day  after  the  27th  November  would  have  seen  two 
hundred  men  landed  there,  with  one  hundred  days'  food, 
ammunition,  tents,  etc.,  etc.,  complete.  To  collect  five 
thousand  men  at  Korti  would  have  required  twenty-five  days 
from  the  27th  November,  so  that  on  the  22nd  December  the 
last  of  the  force  could  have  started  from  Korti  to  Metemmeh,  the 
advanced  portion  of  it,  say  three  thousand  men,  having  left 
that  place  fourteen  days  earlier,  on  the  8th  December. 

Fifteen  days  later,  viz.  on  the  23rd  December,  these  three 
thousand  men  could  have  been  at  Metemmeh,  within  one 
hundred  miles  of  Khartoum  ;  they  would  have  met  at  Met- 
emmeh Gordon's  four  steamers  ;  and  the  same  journey  which 
Sir  Charles  Wilson  made  one  month  later  would  have  been 
accomplished  with  the  advantages  of  a  higher  Nile  level, 
Khartoum  still  held  by  Gordon,  and  the  fact  that  another 
two  thousand  troops  were  marching  from  Korti  to  their  aid. 

Let  us  turn  now  to  what  this  march  across  the  desert  would 


A  LOST  OPPORTUNITY  279 

have  needed.  That  too  was  a  simple  matter.  It  would  have 
required  five  thousand  camels  carrying  the  kits,  food,  water, 
blankets  and  ammunition  for  these  five  thousand  men.  Water 
for  seven  days  only  need  have  been  carried,  as  at  Gakdul  the 
tanks  and  water-skins  would  have  been  refilled.  Water, 
100  lbs.  ;  food  for  thirty  days,  90  lbs.  ;  ammunition  (200 
rounds),  10  lbs.  ;  kit,  20  lbs.,  leaving  a  good  150  lbs.  available 
on  each  camel  for  reserves  of  food,  hospital  comforts,  ammuni- 
tion, etc.     One  camel-driver  to  every  three  camels. 

This  plan  would  have  enabled  some  six  hundred  thousand 
pounds  of  food-stuffs  to  have  been  carried  across  with  the 
infantry  to  the  Nile  at  Metemmeh  ;  more  than  half  the  camels 
would  have  then  been  available  to  return  to  Gakdul  and  Korti 
to  assist  the  carrying  over  of  other  supplies  and  the  accumula- 
tion of  reserves  of  all  kinds  at  Metemmeh,  which  would  be  the 
new  base  for  the  forward  movement  on  Khartoum  by  the  left 
bank  of  the  Nile. 

This  final  advance  would  have  had  Gordon's  four  steamers 
to  accompany  it  on  the  Nile.  Omdurman  was  held  by  Gordon 
until  the  15th  January.  Allowing  ten  days  for  this  final 
advance  upon  Kiiartoum,  and  a  halt  of  three  to  five  days  at 
Metemmeh  for  the  arrival  of  the  two  thousand  infantry  there, 
the  united  column  of  five  thousand  men  would  have  been 
before  Omdurman  on  or  about  the  6th  of  January. 

Of  course  it  can  never  be  known  if  the  arrival  of  that  force 
would  have  stiU  saved  Khartoum  on  that  date.  It  fell  to 
the  Mahdi  twenty  days  later,  as  we  know  ;  but  famine  was 
then  the  chief  if  not  the  only  cause  of  the  disaster,  and  it  had 
only  become  acute  during  the  week  previous  to  the  faU. 

A  word  as  to  this  march  across  the  desert.  The  Bayuda 
is  not  a  desert  in  the  sense  of  the  deserts  of  Nubia  and  Egypt ; 
it  has  vegetation,  and  its  surface  is  hard  and,  generally  speaking, 
good  for  marching.  The  season  of  the  year  was  most  favour- 
able, and,  above  all,  in  physique  and  strength  the  men  were 
perfect ;  the  six  weeks'  pulHng  at  the  oar,  tugging  at  the 
track-lmes,  and  '  portaging  '  had  made  them  hard  as  nails 
and  fit  for  any  work.  The  passage  of  the  Bayuda,  with  kits 
and  baggage,  etc.,  carried  on  camels,  would  have  been  child's 
play  to  such  men.  If  the  papers  of  that  anxious  time,  between 
the  18th  October  and  the  20th  December  1884,  are  still  preserved 


280    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

in  the  records  of  the  War  Office,  there  will  be  found  in  them 
many  telegrams  and  memos  from  me  urging  those  who  had  then 
the  executive  management  of  the  expedition  in  their  hands 
to  the  adoption  of  methods  of  loading,  movement,  and  progress 
of  our  boats  very  different  from  those  which  had  then  been 
ordained  and  accepted. 

Nevertheless,  although  we  had  lost  by  the  end  of  October  a 
full  fortnight  out  of  these  precious  days  hitherto  saved  in 
the  estimate  of  time  given  in  London  on  10th  August,  there 
was  still  time,  as  subsequent  events  proved,  to  have  reached 
the  Nile  at  Metemmeh  as  sketched  above,  if  even  on  this 
first  day  of  November  other  counsels  had  prevailed  at  Wady 
Haifa,  and  our  boats  had  not  had  imposed  upon  them  a  load 
of  over  half  a  ton  in  weight  more  than  that  which  they  had  been 
designed  to  carry.  These  extra  twelve  hundred  pounds  were 
destined  to  lose  us  another  ten  or  a  dozen  days  on  the  passage 
to  Korti. 

I  must  pass  on  from  the  thought  of  that  horrible  time.  It 
was  one  long,  unbroken  nightmare  to  me. 


CHAPTER   XVII 

Delays  on  the  Nile.  Success  of  the  '  whalers.'  Letters.  Korti.  The  Desert 
column.  Fall  of  Khartoum.  The  River  column.  Kirbekan.  News  of 
Gordon's  death. 

Lord  Wolseley  left  Wady  Haifa  for  Dongola  in  the  end  of 
October,  in  the  hope,  I  think,  that  the  confusion  existing  at 
the  former  place  would  tend  to  diminish,  through  its  com- 
ponent parts  being  drawn  off  up  the  river  after  him,  but  this 
result  did  not  follow.  Things  became  more  congested  and 
confused  at  Wady  Haifa.  No  dominant  mind,  no  far-seeing 
eye  remained  there.  The  rival  interests  and  ambitions  in 
staff  and  in  command  which  had  done  so  much  harm  in  Cairo 
during  the  six  preceding  months  had  now  again  an  opportunity 
of  showing  themselves,  and  I  think  that  I  am  well  within  the 
truth  when  I  say  that  to  this  cause  must  be  ascribed  the  loss 
of  another  week,  or  perhaps  ten  days,  in  the  steady  and  con- 
tinuous flow  of  the  troops  up  the  river.  Our  boats  came  on 
up  the  Second  Cataract  in  ever-increasing  numbers ;  by  the 
middle  of  November  we  had  despatched  one  hundred  and  thirty 
of  them  with  thirteen  hundred  troops,  and  seventy  more  with 
food  and  ammunition,  for  Dongola,  and  we  had  another  two 
hundred  boats,  fitted  and  made  ready  to  the  last  pin,  waiting 
to  embark  at  Gemai,  at  the  head  of  the  Second  Cataract, 
their  two  thousand  more  men.  But  these  two  thousand  men 
were  still  far  down  the  river  at  and  below  Assouan.  During 
the  seventeen  days  following  the  6th  November,  only  fifteen 
weak  companies  of  infantry  were  ready  for  embarkation  at 
Gemai. 

On  16th  November  Lord  Wolseley  came  tearing  down  from 
Dongola,  doing  his  fifty  miles  a  day  on  a  camel.  I  met  him  at 
two  in  the 'morning  at  Gemai.  What  had  happened  ?  Why 
were  not  the  troops  moving  up  in  greater  numbers  ?  Whj;' 
were  the  companies  that  had  already  embarked  not  doing 

281 


282    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

quicker  work  in  the  ascent  of  the  river  ?  These  and  other 
questions  he  asked  me  while  the  train  at  Gemai  was  halting, 
taking  water.  I  could  only  speak  of  my  own  part  in  this  great 
work.  He  was  bound  for  Wady  Haifa  and  would  there  see 
for  himself.  We  had  sent  off  two  hundred  boats  ;  we  had 
two  hundred  more  lying  idle  waiting  for  troops  sixty  yards  from 
where  we  were  talking.  As  for  their  progress,  it  was  no  wonder 
their  work  had  been  slow  in  the  rapids  ;  they  were  carrying 
twenty-one  days*  more  food  than  the  load  they  had  been 
designed  and  buUt  to  carry.  I  had  protested  that  this  load 
was  excessi-ve,  but  I  could  do  no  more.  I  found  at  Haifa  I  had 
ceased  to  stand  where  I  did  from  the  first  inception  of  the 
enterprise  in  London  up  to  the  day — the  fatal  day — that  Lord 
Wolseley  had  left  Haifa  for  Dongola. 

Next  morning,  the  17th  November,  I  started  up  river  to 
hasten  the  boats  in  their  ascent.  In  five  days,  working  from 
dawn  to  dark,  I  reached  Sarkamatto,  at  the  head  of  the  great 
Dal  Cataract,  over  ninety  miles  of  the  worst  water  on  the  Nile, 
including  the  cataracts  of  Semneh,  Ambigole,  Tanjour,  Akasha 
and  Dal.  These  five  days  had  revealed  to  me  the  physical 
causes  of  the  slow  ascent  of  our  boats  over  these  river  obstacles, 
and  in  addition  had  laid  bare  a  good  deal  of  the  moral  obstruc- 
tions to  our  progress.  At  all  the  stations  on  the  banks  where 
garrisons  of  the  Egyptian  army  had  been  placed,  with  the  ex- 
ception of  Semneh,  the  favourable  or  friendly  mind  was  con- 
spicuous by  its  absence.  In  the  ranks  of  the  Egyptian  army 
our  boat  expedition  had  few  friends,  nor  was  this  matter  for 
much  wonder  when  the  history  of  the  previous  six  months 
was  taken  into  account.  The  Egyptian  army  of  that  time 
was,  in  its  English  officers,  as  strong  in  ambition  as  its  rank 
and  file  were  weak  in  striking  power.  From  Sirdar  to  junior 
English  subaltern,  its  officers  were  as  the  dogs  of  war  straining 
on  the  leash.  In  the  conflict  of  routes,  the  one  by  the  Nile 
had  been  the  peculiar  perquisite  of  the  Egyptian  army,  and 
portions  of  that  force  had  been  gradually  moving  up  the  Nile 
since  December  1883.  These  units  were  now — November 
1884 — echeloned  along  the  river  at  various  points  between 
the  Second  and  Third  Cataracts  to  the  number  of  about  three 
thousand  men,  and  they  had  to  be  fed,  camped,  and  generally 
supplied  by  the  river  route.      It  was  for  this  supply  service 


MORE  OBSTRUCTION  283 

that  the  heavy  native  craft  had  been  passed  through  the 
Second  Cataract  in  the  end  of  October,  keeping  back  our 
English  boats,  and  losing  us,  as  I  have  said,  a  full  fortnight 
of  our  precious  time  ;  and  all  for  nothing,  as  the  event  proved, 
for  almost  the  whole  of  this  native  craft  to  which  right-of-way 
had  been  given  became  wrecks,  either  in  the  Second  Cataract 
or  in  the  succeeding  rapids  through  which  I  had  just  passed. 
The  shores  of  the  Nile  below  Semneh  were  literally  lined  with 
these  wrecks.  The  course  that  was  pursued  with  regard  to 
the  Egyptian  army  seemed  to  me  to  be  the  worst  of  three 
possible  alternatives  :  first,  they  might  have  been  withdrawn 
altogether  to  Lower  Egypt,  thereby  relieving  the  strain  of 
transport  by  thirty  per  cent,  and  leaving  our  road  clear  ;  second, 
they  might  have  been  pushed  on  to  Dongola,  marching  by  the 
right  bank  of  the  Nile,  and  at  Dongola  they  could  have  lived 
on  that  province  ;  and,  third,  they  might  be  left,  as  they  were 
left,  between  the  Second  and  Third  Cataracts,  to  lessen  our 
supplies,  block  our  way,  and  be  all  but  useless  to  us  in  any  way. 
The  first  course  would  have  left  the  Egyptian  army  officers 
with  a  grievance,  but  it  would  have  meant  for  us  a  clear  road 
to  our  destination.  The  second  course  would  have  had  the 
great  advantage  of  making  the  Egyptian  officers  willing  rivals 
in  this  enterprise  ;  the  third  and  adopted  course  not  only 
kept  the  grievance  intact,  but  it  added  fully  twenty  per  cent. 
to  the  innumerable  difficulties  which  we  had  to  face  and  over- 
come. There  was  yet  another  alternative  possible  :  it  was 
to  have  sent  the  Egj'ptian  army  to  Suakim,  and  with  three 
or  four  battahons  of  British  troops  from  India,  let  it  hammer 
away  at  the  Dervishes  under  Osman  Digna  from  that  side, 
and  endeavour  to  open  the  road  to  Berber,  If  it  failed,  no 
great  harm  would  have  been  done  ;  if  it  succeeded,  the  gain 
to  the  general  stock  of  the  effort  to  save  Gordon  and  Khartoum 
would  have  been  very  great. 

At  Dal  on  the  21st  November  I  had  realised  that,  under  the 
existing  conditions  of  affairs,  the  prospects  of  reaching  Gordon 
in  time  had  already  become  terribly  doubtful.  I  wired  back 
to  Haifa  a  list  of  the  things  that  seemed  to  me  to  demand  the 
quickest  measures  of  reform,  and  then  I  pushed  on  for  the 
head  of  the  Third  Cataract,  with  the  intention  of  getting  into 
direct  touch  with  Lord  Wolseley,  and  laying  my  accumulated 


284     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

knowledge  before  him.  Working,  as  before,  from  early  light 
to  dusk,  I  reached  the  head  of  the  Third  Cataract  on  the  27th 
November,  having  averaged  twenty  miles  a  day,  cataracts, 
rapids,  and  aU  included.  But  the  telegraph  had  beaten  me, 
notwithstanding  all  my  haste.  I  was  about  to  experience  at 
the  head  of  the  Third  Cataract  what  was  perhaps  the  cruellest 
check  of  all  my  life.  I  knew  the  whole  thing  now.  It  was  the 
last  hour  in  the  chances  still  left  to  us  of  saving  Gordon.  This 
was  the  28th  November.  No  boat  save  mine  had  yet  passed 
this  Third  Cataract.  Why  ?  Because  three  weeks  had  been 
thrown  away  in  the  starting  of  the  boats  ;  because,  even  at 
this  eleventh  hour,  our  boats  were  loaded  up  to  their  gunwales 
and  down  to  the  water's  edge  with  cargo  largely  in  excess  of 
their  rightful  loads  ;  because,  as  yet,  the  work  was  being  done 
under  the  benumbing  influence  of  aU  the  doubt  and  distrust 
in  the  possibility  of  our  EngHsh  boats  overcoming  the  diffi- 
culties of  this  long  river  ascent,  which  the  six  months'  fight 
between  the  Army  Councillors  in  Cairo  had  long  since  made 
the  common  property  of  the  officers  and  men  of  the  rival 
armies  in  Egy]pt. 

Instead  of  being  taken  at  once  as  the  sole  means  of  reaching 
in  time,  and  with  sufficient  force,  the  destination  for  which  we 
were  bound,  our  boats  had  been  grudgingly  accepted  by  the 
various  chiefs,  staffs,  and  departments  as  things  which  had  to 
prove  their  fitness  for  the  task  before  any  one  would  believe 
in  them.  Hence  there  had  grown  up  the  thousand  queries 
and  the  querulousness  which,  in  an  enterprise  such  as  this 
we  were  engaged  upon,  meant  a  lot  of  lost  power  in  every 
day's  work  and  in  most  men's  individual  efforts  ;  the  horrible 
'  What  is  the  use  ?  '  and  *  Why  is  this  last  hour  asked  of  us  ?  ' 
which  knock  off  from  every  hour  some  moments  and  from  the 
day's  work  a  few  miles.  Oh,  how  I  gnashed  my  teeth  at  this 
apathy,  as  in  that  upward  journey  of  ten  days,  through  cataract, 
whirlpool,  and  rapid,  I  saw  it,  heard  it,  and  felt  it  in  heart 
and  soul ;  at  military  station,  on  sandbank  ;  in  the  lifting  of 
a  biscuit-box  ;  in  the  halt  or  the  start  ;  until  at  last,  by  the 
sheer  dumb  proof  which  the  boats  were  themselves  giving  of 
their  capacity  to  their  captains  and  their  crews,  belief  in  them 
grew  stronger,  and  many  ceased  at  length  to  doubt,  '  crab,' 
and  grumble.     But  the  moment  of  their  admitted  triumph 


A  REBUFF  AT  HAFIR  285 

had  not  yet  arrived,  and  already  the  sands  in  the  hour-glass 
of  possible  success  were  running  very,  very  low.  I  have  said 
that  I  was  beaten  by  the  telegraph.  It  was  in  this  way.  I 
firmly  believed  that  if  I  could  get  to  Lord  Wolseley  for  even 
one  hour,  I  should  have  little  difficulty  m  showing  him  the 
exact  state  of  matters  over  all  the  two  hundred  and  twentj'' 
miles  between  Dongola  and  Wady  Haifa.  I  was  not  at  that 
moment  aware  of  the  contents  of  the  letter  he  had  received 
at  Wady  Haifa  on  the  18th  November  from  Gordon,  dated 
Khartoum,  4th  November,  but  I  knew  that  Khartoum  was 
hard  pressed  by  foes  without  and  want  of  food  within,  and  I 
was  as  certain  as  man  can  be  that  with  our  boats,  and  in  the 
food  they  carried,  lay  the  only  chance  we  had  of  arriving  in 
time  to  save  the  town.  There  was  no  use  ui  deploring  the 
time  already  lost,  but  to  get  the  last  mile  of  distance  for  our 
boats  out  of  every  remaining  day,  and  save  the  first  and  last 
glint  of  daylight  for  our  work  m  the  time  that  yet  remained 
to  us,  did  seem  to  me  an  object  worth  every  risk  that  could  be 
run  to  win  it.  It  was  in  this  effort  that  the  telegraph  beat  me. 
It  had  been  at  work  from  Wady  Haifa  to  Dongola.  It  was 
decreed  that  I  was  not  to  pass  beyond  the  head  of  the  Third 
Cataract !  I  was  not  to  see  the  commander-in-chief  !  I  must 
go  back  to  Dal !  What  I  wrote  that  afternoon  in  m}^  boat  in 
the  middle  of  the  Nile,  somewhere  in  the  broad  water  below 
the  isle  of  Argo,  I  could  not  now  recall,  but  I  remember  that  my 
pencil  flew  over  the  blank  backs  of  some  nine  or  ten  large 
Egj^tian  telegraph  forms,  as  no  pen  or  pencil  of  mine  ever 
went  before  or  since.  I  handed  the  packet  of  tissue  sheets 
to  the  messenger  to  give  to  Lord  Wolseley  in  Dongola,  and 
then  turned  down-stream  with,  I  think,  the  heaviest  heart  and 
saddest  brain  I  had  ever  known  in  my  life. 

When  evening  came,  I  put  into  the  village  of  Mochi  and 
began  to  write  again  : — 

'  You  have  knc^Ti  me  long  enough  to  know  that  disregard  of 
orders,  much  less  disregard  of  your  orders,  is  not  my  line  of  conduct, 
but  I  would  have  thought  that  there  was  enough  in  the  past  to  show 
that  when  you  set  me  a  task  it  was  best  to  let  me  work  it  in  my  own 
way.  Had  you  tied  me  do^vn  six  years  ago  on  the  Red  River  you 
would  not  have  known  at  Fort  Francis  that  the  Winnipeg  River 
was  only  a  week's  work  for  the  expedition,  and  the  men  would 


286    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

have  been  committed  to  the  swamps  of  the  north-west  angle  of  the 
Lake  of  the  Woods  as  all  the  experts  and  others,  save  myself, 
counselled  and  advised.     Again,  if  3'^ou  had  not  given  me  my  own 
head  in  Ashanti  eleven  years  ago,  you  would  have  had  ten  thousand 
more  fighting  men  arrayed  against  you  at  a  very  critical  moment 
in  the  battle  of  Amoaful ;  and,  coming  down  to  our  work  of  yester- 
day and  to-day,  was  it  not  through  your  letting  me  work  this  boat 
idea  from  the  beginning  on  my  own  lines  that  you  have  at  the 
present  moment  six  hundred  boats  ready  above  the  Second  Cataract, 
that  I  have  one  above  the  Third  Cataract,  and  that  there  might 
have  been  fifty  above  it  to-day  had  the  old  order  of  time  and  despatch 
of  troops  been  adhered  to  ?   and  that  all  this  had  been  done  within 
the  hmit  of  time,  please  remember,  which  the  highest  naval  authori- 
ties in  England  had  declared  would  be  required  for  only  building 
the  boats  in  England.     I  go  back  over  the  past  and  speak  of  the 
present  work  now  only  because  your  words  and  actions  to-day 
have  forced  these  recollections  upon  me.     It  had  never  entered 
my  head  for  a  moment  to  remain  more  than  a  few  hours  in  Dongola. 
I  should  have  gone  down  the  river  again  in  a  very  diflPerent  position 
and  armed  with  a  very  different  authority  from  that  which  I  shall 
now  do  ;   not  that  I  shall  not  use  every  effort,  sparing  myself  in  no 
way  to  effect  the  more  rapid  movement  up  river  ;    but  my  words 
will  not  be  heard  in  the  noise  of  the  slap  in  the  face  I  have  been  given 
to-day,  the  sound  of  which  will  be  grateful  to  many  to  whom  I  am 
distasteful  because  I  have  been  identified  with  this  expedition  by 
ceaselessly  furthering  its  interests.     I  freely  admit  that  the  ortho- 
dox EngHsh  staff  officer  would  have  stopped  at  Hafir  to-day,  to- 
morrow, and  the  day  after,  eyeglass  in  eye  and  cigarette  in  mouth  ; 
but,  on  the  other  hand,  he  would  have  taken  sixteen  to  eighteen 
days  to  ascend  the  river  from  Sarras  to  Hafir,  and  when  acting  on 
your  orders  to  go  back  on  the  seventeenth  or  nineteenth  day  to 
try  and  galvanise  the  slow  moving  mass  of  boats  into  quicker 
work,  his  words  would  have  had  about  as  much  effect  upon  Tommy 
Atkins  as  his  cigarette  smoke  would  have   had  in  dulling   the 
Egyptian  sky.     Unfortunately  perhaps  for  me,  these  were  not  my 
methods  of  work ;  and  I  fear  they  never  a\  ill  be.     I  realised  from 
the  first  that  w^e  were  dealing  with  a  lot  of  unwilliug  horses  at  these 
Nile  fences,  and  that  the  only  chance  of  getting  them  quickly  over 
the  water-jumps  was  to  give  them  a  lead  over.' 

Then  I  set  down  again  the  many  things  that  had  tended 
and  were  tending  to  delay  us — the  loads,  greater  than  those 
first  intended,  and  double  those  carried  on  the  Red  River  ; 


Ul^VILLING  HANDS  287 

the  mistake  of  having  increased  the  boat-loads  and  decreased 
the  number  of  men  per  boat,  thereby  reducing  the  Hve  motive- 
power  and  adding  to  the  dead  weight  in  every  boat,  and  all 
this  following  upon  a  clear  loss  of  ten  to  fifteen  days  in  starting 
from  the  Second  Cataract.  But  above  all  these  things  com- 
bined I  put  the  moral  factor,  the  impression  engendered 
originally  in  the  minds  of  the  men  by  the  long-continued  abuse 
of  the  boat  scheme,  that  they  (the  boats)  were  not  able  for  the 
work.  The  men  of  these  earlier  days  of  boat- work  were  not 
keen  at  it.  My  notebooks  of  the  time  were  full  of  instances 
of  laziness  : — 

'  The  work,'  I  wrote,  '  at  its  best  was  mechanically  done  :  in  its 
normal  state  it  was  lethargic  ;  at  its  worst  it  was  unwilling,  careless, 
and  even  worse.  Heart  there  was  none  in  it.  There  was  neither 
insolence  nor  refusal,  no  positive  insubordination  ;  simply  a  clogged, 
lethargic  "  hands-down  "  attitude  that  was  even  more  hopeless  than 
the  most  iasubordiaate  refusal ;  the  word  "  alacrity  "  had  no  place 
in  the  day's  business.' 

I  might  multiply  that  extract  by  many  others  of  a  similar  kind. 
This  enterprise  of  ours  was  the  grandest  and  the  noblest  work 
in  war  tried  in  my  time.  I  felt  all  the  enthusiasm  of  its  splendid 
purpose,  its  colossal  difficulties,  its  grand  theatre,  this  wondrous 
old  river,  in  every  fibre  of  my  being  ;  and  in  all  the  length  of 
the  chain  at  which  we  tugged  from  Cairo  to  Dongola,  I  knew 
there  was  only  one  man  to  whom  I  could  appeal  with  the  hope 
of  being  listened  to  at  this  last  moment  possible  to  our  success. 
Well,  it  is  all  long  buried  in  the  dead  past  now.  But  for  the 
last  few  days  as  I  write  I  have  been  looking  again  into  the  old 
notebooks,  wherein  I  find  some  of  the  letters  and  telegraph 
messages  and  orders  blurred  and  blotted  with  the  sweat  and 
dust  of  many  a  bygone  bivouac,  and  it  comes  back  again  with 
something  of  the  sweet  and  the  bitter  which  I  then  knew — 
for,  despite  failure  and  dashed  hope,  that  old  wonderful  river, 
in  the  various  phases  of  its  own  mysterious  Ufe,  had  become 
to  me  a  strange  solace,  despite  the  savagery  of  its  wild  rocks 
and  the  whirling  waters  of  its  cataracts. 

During  the  thirty  days  following  the  rebuff  at  Hafir,  I  went 
up  and  down  the  cataracts,  hustling  lagging  boats,  giving  a 
lead  through  a  rapid,  getting  an  extra  half-hour  out  of  a  bevy 


288     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

of  boats,  distributing  copies  of  a  general  order  to  commanding 
officers,  and  often  taking  a  hand  on  the  tug-line  to  shame  some 
loitering  boat's-crew  into  better  work. 

In  the  dangerous  reaches  above  the  Second  Cataract  I  had 
a  few  quiet  spots  selected,  on  island  or  mainland,  into  which 
we  steered  at  dusk,  tied  up,  lighted  a  fire  of  driftwood,  had 
supper,  and  laid  down  blankets  for  the  night.  These  are  the 
memories  of  the  Nile  that  still  live  with  me,  and  it  was  these 
scenes  that  soon  made  me  see,  through  the  foredoom  of  our 
failure,  how  smaU  it  all  was  in  comparison  with  this  mighty 
desert  of  death  and  the  stream  of  life  that  flowed  through  it. 
Mixed  up  with  messages  to  Wady  Haifa,  boat  orders,  and 
letters  to  Dongola,  I  find  bits  such  as  this  : — 

'  14ih  Dec.  Kaibar. — Sent  camel  with  letters  to  Dongola.  Got 
away  8.30.  Three  hours'  writing.  Late  sleepers  and  starters,  the 
modern  soldier  and  officer.     The  breed  is  falling   off.     Another 

rasping  letter  from .     Fine  breeze  up  long  reach  of  river  to  the 

two  big  rocks.  Freshness  of  wind  off  desert  and  fragrance  of 
aromatic  sand  plants.  Officers  lose  touch  of  their  men  as  they 
rise  in  rank.  It  is  the  penalty  they  pay  for  promotion.  Napoleon 
in  1815  was  not  the  General  Bonaparte  of  1796.  Camped  near 
"  sent  "  trees,  beside  old  graves.  Petrffied  wood.  Granite  boulders. 
Sadness  of  these  Nubian  Nile  evenings — the  waihng  sounds  of  the 
water-wheel  all  through  the  night,  the  low  moan  of  the  wind  through 
ragged  thorn  bushes  and  dry  grass  stalks.  There  is  more  true 
philosophy,  as  it  is  called,  in  the  Lord's  Prayer  than  in  all  the  books 
ever  written  by  man  ;   take  it  slowly  word  by  word  and  weigh  the 

words.     With  regard  to  this  expedition,  ask  M ,  or  any  other 

independent  man  who  has  worked  this  line  of  communications,  as 
to  what  the  feeling  of  the  Naval  and  Egyptian  (Army)  officers  is. 
Ambigol,  Dal,  latterly  Absaret,  Kaibar — aU  alike.  Shot  a  wild 
goose.  Camped  on  island  in  middle  of  Third  Cataract.  Stars. 
Roar  of  river. 

'  \4ih  Dec. — Up  to  top  of  Cataract.  Hard  pulling  in  rapids,  but 
did  it  all  by  oars  and  sails.  No  tracking.  To  Abu  Fatmeh  at 
8.30  A.M.  Earle  there.  Here  all  the  swells  are  passing  up  to  Korti. 
All  going  by  camel,  too  precious  to  trust  themselves  in  boats, 
apparently.  I  am  to  be  the  Moses  of  the  expedition,  not  to  enter 
the  promised  land. 

'  15^^  Dec. — Off  down  the  Third  Cataract  again.  These  rapids  are 
my  treadmill.  Big  fish  killed  in  shallow  water  ;  Krooboys  forced 
him  on  rock  and  Tom  Williams  stunned  him  with  blow  of  axe  on 


NOTEBOOK  JOTTINGS  289 

head  —  five  feet  in  length  and  a  hundred  and  twelve  pounda  in 
weight.  Good  eating  to-night.  Camped  island  below  Cataract. 
Found  my  camel  and  Farag  the  driver  on  mainland.  He  had  been 
up  to  Dongola,  down  to  Dal,  and  up  again  here  in  last  ten  days. 
Splendid  fellow,  black  as  night.     Cold  night.     Crew  tired. 

'  16th  Dec. — Off  to  Kaibar  on  camel.  Farag  finds  a  donkey  and 
comes  as  guide  across  desert.  Donkey  collapses,  shutting  up  hke 
a  closing  telescope.  Go  on  alone,  through  desert  of  rocks,  four 
hours,  then  sight  Nile  and  two  big  rocks.  Three  hours  more  to 
Kaibar.  Many  sails  of  boats  visible  on  reach  below  Cataract. 
Thirty  have  passed  Kaibar  in  last  four  days.  Camel  tired.  Sleep 
on  ground  very  soundly  after  long  ride.  Wallets  for  pillow.  Camel 
near  me, 

'  llth  Dec. — In  steam  pinnace  No.  102  from  Kaibar  towards 
Hanneck  through  twenty  or  more  boats  all  doing  well.  Poor 
boats  !  Some  of  them  look  worn,  pitched,  patched,  and  tin-plated, 
yet  going  gaily  in  light  wind  and  able  to  do  more  in  the  long  run 

than  any  steam  pinnace.     Passed  poor  old  Colonel ,  wounded 

at  Tel-el-Kebir,  full  of  pluck,  teeth  all  gone,  and  helmet  too.  Got 
wood  for  pinnace  on  Isle  Adwin.  What  work  !  Recalls  West 
Coast  days  eleven  years  ago.  Ran  aground  on  sandbank  going  up 
west  channel,  in  water  up  to  middles,  trying  to  shove  her  off.  No 
go,  sand  silts  up  round  us  in  strong  current.  After  an  hour  boat  still 
fast  in  mid-river.  Natives  come  out.  Watching  play  of  sand  in 
current,  I  see  only  chance  is  to  get  head  of  pinnace  up-stream ; 
sand  has  then  no  lee  side  to  silt  up  on.  We  get  head  up-stream. 
I  take  helm,  crew  in  water  stamping  on  sand.  Go  ahead  full  speed. 
Shove  bow,  keep  sand  shifting  with  feet.  Scrape  over  bank  into 
deep  water.  All  jump  in.  Away  up  river  to  Zimmet  Island, 
which  we  reach  after  dark.  My  boat  comes  down  to  meet  me  at 
Wood  Station,  and  I  get  to  Gibbs'  Camp  lat«.  Gibbs  wrecked  five 
times  in  thirty-nine  days  in  nuggers  between  Sarras  and  Fatineh. 
Greeks  at  Dongola  buy  Hicks  Pasha's  treasure  from  Dervishes  at 
four  shillings  the  sovereign  !  This  Greek  is  the  man  we  are  really 
fighting  for.     He  will  outstay  us  aU. 

'  2&h  Dec. — Down  river  again  to  Kaibar.  Struck  rock  in  Shaban 
rapid,  damaged,  repair.  Passed  seventy-five  boats  going  well, 
good  wind.     Foimd  two  Colonels  on  portage. 

'  22n^  Dec. — Passed  forty-six  boats  over  Cataract.  All  day  on 
portagt:  Arrived,  Colonel  of  Gordon  Highlanders  and  two  boats  ; 
seventeen  days  from  Gemai.     That  is  what  should  be  ! 

'  23rd  Dec. — Passed  twenty  boats  over  Cataract.  Hot  day.  Old 
sheik  of  Cataract  and  his  men  and  boys  on  rocks.     Sheik  gives  them 


290    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

one  piastre  a  day.  I  keep  his  pay  in  arrear.  He  says  he  will  strike. 
I  tell  the  interpreter  to  sa.y  to  him  my  stick  -will  do  the  same  :  three 
shillings  a  boat  too  much  to  give  the  old  rascal.  Gesticulations, 
shoutings,  rocks.     Work  weU  done. 

'  24:th. — Writing  telegrams.  Peel,  Wortley  pass  to  Korti.  All 
the  others  gone  there.  I  am  out  in  the  cold  with  a  vengeance. 
Wrote  letter  in  reply  to  BuUer,  who  has  gone  on  to  Korti  a  week  ago 
on  camel.     Curious  Christmas  Eve. 

'  25th. — And  stranger  Christmas  Hay.  Naval  Brigade  passes 
Kaibar  fifteen  days  out  from  Sarras.  At  2.30  I  start  up  river  again, 
get  a  goose  with  a  long-shot  bullet  at  dusk,  and  have  him  for  dinner 
— a  welcome  change  from  Chicago  "  bully  "  beef.  MoonUght  in 
the  desert  rocks.  Stars,  intense  silence,  no  sound  to-night  of  water- 
wheel,  man  or  beast,  from  the  surrounding  desert.  Are  the  shep- 
herds keeping  "heir  night-watches,  as  of  old,  on  the  Judean  hills  ? 
Outlines  of  those  hills  the  same  as  these.  Stars,  Canopus,  Sirius 
all  here  too.     How  the  scene  is  brought  before  one  !  ' 

'  It  was  at  this  time  that  an  express  reached  me  from  Kaibar 
reporting  that  a  box  of  treasure,  carried  in  a  cartridge-box, 
had  been  missed  from  a  camel  ammunition  convoy  four  days 
earlier  farther  down  the  river — eleven  thousand  pounds  in 
gold.  The  convoy  was  then  at  Kaibar.  I  sent  back  an  order 
directing  the  convoj'',  about  one  hundred  and  forty  camels, 
to  proceed  on  its  march  next  day  across  the  desert  to  Abu 
Fatmeh  as  usual,  and  I  wrote  privately  to  the  officer  in  charge 
telling  him  to  halt  his  convoy  some  four  miles  out  in  the  open 
desert  and  to  await  my  arrival ;  then  I  rode  out  to  the  spot 
indicated.  I  found  the  convoy  halted  as  directed.  I  formed 
the  men,  soldiers  and  natives,  in  two  lots,  and  told  them  that 
a  box  of  treasure  was  missing  ;  that  it  could  not  have  been  lost  ; 
that  it  must  either  have  been  stolen  or  be  still  with  the  column  ; 
and  I  offered  twenty -five  pounds  reward  to  any  man  who  would 
step  out  and  say  where  the  box  was.  I  told  them  further  that 
if  no  one  would  reveal  the  whereabouts  of  the  treasure,  I  would 
be  obliged  to  institute  a  close  search  in  saddles,  bags,  etc., 
and  even  to  strip  everybody  to  their  skins.  I  gave  five  minutes 
for  reflection,  and  then  began  the  search.  Everything  was 
opened  out  ;  the  place  was  as  bare  as  the  palm  of  one's  hand  ; 
the  sun  was  brilliant  above  ;  nothing  was  found — ^not^'one 
golden  sovereign  could  be  seen  in  package,  pocket,  or  saddle. 
There  was  nothing  more  to  be  done,  and  after  an  hour  spent 


THE  HAZARDS  OF  THE  RTVER  291 

in  this  fruitless  examination,  I  ordered  the  convoy  to  load  up 
and  proceed  south.  I  reported  the  loss,  the  box  of  golden 
sovereigns  was  '  written  off '  in  the  official  phraseology,  and  in 
due  time  the  convoy  reached  Dongola,  and  proceeded  with 
the  other  camel  transport  across  the  Bayuda  towards  Metem- 
meh.  The  day  of  Abu  Klea  came  ;  the  square,  inside  of  which 
were  the  baggage  and  riding  camels,  was  broken  by  the  wild 
rush  of  the  Arab  spearmen,  and  a  desperate  fight  ensued  within 
the  broken  square  itself,  a  fight  in  which  the  wedged  mass 
of  camels  alone  saved  the  day.  In  the  midst  of  the  fiercest 
fighting  a  cry  arose  for  more  cartridges  ;  boxes  were  hastily 
opened,  and  out  from  one  of  these  boxes  rolled  a  mass  of  golden 
sovereigns.  The  fighting  was  forgotten  by  the  men  who  were 
nearest  to  the  scene,  a  wild  scramble  ensued,  and  in  half  a 
minute  the  last  piece  of  gold  had  been  fobbed  up.  \Vhat  had 
originally  happened  was  that  the  cartridge-box  containing  the 
gold  had  got  mixed  up  with  the  cases  of  ammunition,  and  as 
the  boxes  had  only  some  small  private  mark  to  indicate  them, 
the  mistake  was  onlj^  discovered  in  the  square  at  Abu  Klea. 

I  spent  the  26th  December  forcing  up  the  rapids  which 
extend  for  several  miles  below  the  Third  Cataract,  and  giving 
help  to  the  many  boats  T^hich  were  now  labouring  over  a 
particularly  difficult  piece  of  water  called  Shaban.  This 
cataract  was  not  marked  upon  our  maps,  but  it  had  proved  the 
most  dangerous  of  any  in  the  whole  river.  Of  the  dozen 
soldiers  and  voyageurs  lost  in  the  length  of  the  five  hundred 
miles  from  Wady  Haifa  to  Hebbeh,  Shabah  cost  us  three  lives. 
I  had  no^^■  run  it  up  and  down  half  a  dozen  times  without 
accident,  but  in  this  last  trip  on  26th  December  it  aU  but 
caught  us,  and  in  a  way  most  unexpected. 

We  were  forcing  up  a  very  bad  '  gate  '  between  rocks,  and 
were  doing  well  in  very  swift  and  apparently  deep  water, 
when  the  stem-post  suddenly  touched  a  sunken  rock,  stopping 
the  way  on  the  boat.  Instantly  the  bow  feU  off  to  one  side, 
and  the  boat  swung  roiuid  at  a  tremendous  pace,  pivoting  upon 
the  held  steni-post.  The  passage  was  extremeh^  narrow  be- 
tween the  rocks  ;  if  the  bows  touched  the  rock  ever  so  shghtly, 
we  were  over  in  water  running  faster  than  any  mill-race.  The 
bows  whirled  round  clear,  I  don't  think  there  were  four 
inches  to  spare.     A  week  earlier  we  had  run  this  passage,  but 


292     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

the  river  had  fallen  a  foot  in  the  interval,  and  that  sunken  tooth 
had  got  within  biting  distance  of  our  kelson.  It  is  such  an 
incident  as  this  which  makes  the  cataract  reaches  of  the  Nile 
so  difficult  and  dangerous. 

I  got  to  my  island  haven  in  the  Third  Cataract  early  on  the 
27th,  and  found  there  the  following  note  from  Colonel  Frederick 
Maurice  of  Abu  Fatmeh,  addressed  to  me  '  At  top  of  Shaban 
Gate,'  25th  December  : — 

'  Received  last  night  following  telegram  from  Genl.  Buller,  Korti  : 
"  If  you  can  get  at  Butler,  ask  him  to  come  here  as  soon  as  can." 
I  have  your  camel  ready  for  you,  and  if  you  decide  to  go  by  camel 
will  make  up  a  party  for  you  somehow,  but  wait  for  you  to  decide 
numbers,  etc.     Christmas  and  New  Year  best  wishes.' 

I  rode  the  camel  to  Fatmeh,  the  boat  arrived  later  ;  we 
filled  in  with  a  hundred  days'  rations,  and  at  9.30  next  morning 
we  were  off  for  Korti.  By  the  evening  of  the  30th  we  had 
covered  eighty  miles  of  river  ;  then  the  north  wind  fell,  and 
the  oar  and  track-line  had  to  be  used.  On  New  Year's  Day 
Debbeh  was  passed,  and  at  sunrise  on  4th  January  I  reached 
Korti. 

I  have  already  told  in  detail  the  story  of  the  Nile  Expedition 
as  it  had  impressed  me  as  a  subordinate  actor  in  its  strangely 
varied  scenes.^  I  regarded  it  then,  and  I  still  think  of  it, 
as  the  most  remarkable  attempt  made  in  modern  times  to 
conquer  in  four  months  the  difficulties  of  great  distance,  the 
absence  of  food  supplies,  and  the  opposition  of  a  very  brave 
and  determined  enemy,  flushed  by  a  long  career  of  victory, 
and  filled  with  a  fanaticism  as  fierce  as  that  which  had  carried 
the  Arabian  soldiers  of  the  Prophet  over  half  the  Eastern  and 
Western  world  twelve  centuries  earlier. 

The  Nubian  village  of  Korti  was  a  strange  place  in  the  first 
half  of  January  1885.  One  saw  there  on  the  high  bank  of  the 
Nile  an  extraordinary  mixture  of  the  masses  and  the  classes 
of  EngHsh  social  life.  The  English  boats  were  arriving  in 
crowds  daily,  all  carrying  their  five  months'  food  supplies — 
three  months  for  their  own  crews,  and  two  months  for  the 
camel  column  which  was  to  cross  the  Bayuda  desert  to 
Metemmeh.     Truly    had    these    wonderful    little    '  whalers ' 

^  The  Campaign  oftht  Cataracts. 


LETTERS  HOME  293 

brought  their  own  revenges  along  with  them.  Here,  in  the 
face  of  guardsmen  and  journahsts,  and  officers  and  men  of 
twenty  different  regimental  corps,  was  written  large  in  the 
vast  verity  of  victuals — the  only  truth  that  appeals  to  all 
classes  and  creeds — ^the  fact  that  by  the  means  of  these  long- 
derided  and  abused  boats,  and  by  them  alone,  had  this 
concentration  of  men,  horses,  and  camels  been  possible  at  this 
Bayuda  village  fourteen  hundred  miles  from  Alexandria — all 
done  within  four  and  a  half  months  from  the  date  on  which 
the  long-delayed  permission  to  build  and  equip  these  same 
boats  had  been  grudgingly  given  to  me  in  London. 

I  shall  enter  here  extracts  from  two  letters  I  had  written 
from  London  to  my  wife  in  August  1884  : — 

'9<A  August. 

'  Here  I  am  after  four  days  of  intense  heat.  I  do  think  I  have 
aone  in  these  four  days  four  weeks  of  ordinary  War  Office  work.  But 
such  vacillation  you  cannot  imagine  I  They  are  veering  about  like 
weathercocks.  It  is  terrible  to  have  to  serve  such  idiots.  The 
heat  is  Egyptian  :  eighty-four  degrees  in  the  coolest  room.' 

And  again  : — 

'12<A  Auguat. 

'  A  hasty  line  to  report  progress.  It  would  take  long  hours  to  tell 
you  of  the  struggles  of  the  past  week.  One  day  we  won,  the  next 
we  lost,  but  to-day  the  opponents  of  my  plan  have  caved  in,  and  our 
four  hundred  boats  are  to  be  ordered.  We  have  got  two  hundred 
already  fixed,  and  hope  to  have  the  other  two  hundred  settled  in 
two  days  from  now.     I  am  to  go  out  in  charge  of  them  ia  the  end 

of  September.     This  morning  I  got  a  letter  from  Lord  by 

mounted  messenger  to  go  to  breakfast  vn\h  him  at  nine  o'clock. 
We  had  a  long  fight  all  day  with  the  "  Fuzboi  "  (i.e.  the  Authorities), 
and  at  4  p.m.  we  won.  In  a  week  from  this  day  the  whole  four 
hundred  boats  will  be  out.' 

Just  two  months  later,  on  the  17th  October,  I  wrote  thus 
from  Korosko  : — 

'  Here  I  am  on  my  way  to  Wady  Haifa,  all  going  well  so  far  as  my 
particular  business  is  concerned,  but  the  outside  work  of  transport 
and  supply  is  by  no  means  so  flourishing.  I  do  not  hesitate  to  say 
that  in  the  long  seven  hundred  miles  from  here  to  Cairo,  eight  out 
of  every  ten  of  our  own  people  are  either  actively  or  passively 


294    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :  AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

opposed  to  our  expedition,  ready  to  make  the  most  instead  of  the 
least  of  difficulties,  and  to  "  crab  "  the  project  as  much  as  they  can. 
It  is  a  most  unfortunate  state  of  things,  but,  in  spite  of  all  diffi- 
culties, I  feel  pretty  certain  of  getting  one  hundred  of  our  boats 
away  from  the  Second  Cataract  by  the  1st  of  November  or  sooner.' 

Another  snapshot  letter,  ten  days  later  : — 

'  Bal-el-Kebir,  2nu  Cataract,  2Qth  October, 

'  During  the  last  three  or  four  days  my  work  has  at  times  been 
more  than  exacting.  I  have  had  a  hard  battle,  but  as  I  write  I 
am  a  winner  all  along  the  line.  Briefly  the  position  was  this.  The 
railway  from  Haifa  to  Sarras  had  quite  broken  down.  In  London 
it  had  been  counted  on  for  the  carriage  of  our  boats  round  the  great 
Second  Cataract.  We  were,  therefore,  face  to  face  with  the  necessity 
of  taking  the  boats  through  this  Second  Cataract,  the  worst  obstacle 
on  the  river.  I  examined  the  cataract  on  the  day  following  my  arrival 
at  Haifa,  and  saw  the  manner  in  which  the  naval  people  proposed 
to  take  our  "  whalers  "  up.  I  saw  at  once  that  they  must  smash 
the  precious  craft  to  atoms.  They  really  did  not  know  the  first 
principles  of  rope-work  in  rapids.  I  protested,  but  to  no  avail ; 
they  were  to  have  their  way.  Then  I  came  out  here,  fifteen  miles 
from  Haifa,  and  determined  to  stop  them  when  they  had  smashed 
the  first  boats.  On  the  way  out  I  heard  of  the  loss  of  one, 
and  the  dangerous  escapes  of  a  few  others.  I  wrote  most  strongly 
to  Lord  W.  and  to  Buller,  protesting.  The  camp  of  the  sailors  is 
six  miles  from  here,  and  I  found  that  they  did  not  arrive  at  their 
work  here  until  9  a.m.  No  boat  had  yet  passed  the  "  Great  Gate  "  ; 
the  one  lost  had  been  lost  lower  down  the  river.  I  determined  to 
take  a  boat  through  the  "  Great  Gate  "  with  natives,  on  my  own 
plan,  before  any  of  the  sailors  appeared  on  the  scene.  The  telegram 
will  probably  have  told  you  of  my  success.  The  boat  was  through 
by  7.45  A.M.  safe  and  sound,  and  when  the  nav^al  people  arrived, 
they  found  the  problem  solved.  Lord  W.  and  Buller  appeared  later  : 
then  the  navy  tried  their  plan.  We  waited  four  hours  on  the  rocks. 
At  last  the  ponderous  gear  was  set  going,  the  boat  narrowly  escaped 
destruction  three  or  four  times,  and  nothing  but  her  wonderful 
strength  and  buoyancy  saved  her.  Then  all  were  convinced,  and 
I  was  allowed  to  have  my  own  way.  But  what  a  fight  it  has  been  ! 
I  was  deserted  by  all.  Buller  was  dead  against  me.  It  was  not  a 
pleasant  thing  for  them  to  be  obliged  to  eat  their  own  words  with  their 
oum  eyes.  (Allow  me  the  bull.)  This  is  a  wild  spot.  I  am  camped 
on  a  point  with  rapids  all  around,  the  heat  is  a  hundred  degrees  in 
my  tent ;    but  I  am  very  well,  thank  God,  and  yesterday  was  a 


MORE  LETTERS  295 

bright  day  in  my  life.  What  I  prized  most  was  the  success  of  the 
boats  ;  the  one  tried  by  the  navy  was  put  by  their  methods  into  the 
worst  whirlpool  in  the  "  Great  Gate,"  and  rode  it  through  in 
triumph.  .  .  .' 

One  more  snapshot  letter  from  that  distant  time  and  I  have 
done  : — 

'  KoRTi,  I2th  January  1885. 

'  I  sent  you  a  few  words  of  cheer  at  Christmas  by  wire,  but  my 
letters  have  been  getting  fewer.  I  really  had  not  the  heart  to  write 
bad  news.  I  had  suffered  so  much  from  what  I  must  always  regard 
as  unjust  treatment  at  the  hands  of  my  "  best  friends  "  that  I  could 
only  go  on  day  after  day  working,  and  lying  down  each  night  with 
the  hope,  which  work  done  gives,  that  it  would  all  come  right  in 
the  end.  Well,  it  has  come,  if  not  right,  certainly  better  than  it  was. 
The  past  cannot  now  be  undone — those  long  weeks  when  I  was  denied 
the  most  pressing  wants.  That  is  over,  thank  God,  but  the  harm  it 
all  caused  to  the  boats  cannot  be  set  right.  It^is  too  long  and  too 
painful  a  story  to  tell  you  now  ;  but  sometime 'perhaps  you  will 
hear  it  all.  I  had  gone  over  my  weary  river  reach  between  Kaibar 
and  the  Third  Cataract  for  the  eighth  time,  when  I  got  a  telegram 
calling  me  up  here.  I  came  like  the  wind,  completing  the  straight 
run  from  Sarras  to  Korti  in  eighteen  days — the  quickest  passage 
made  by  any  boat.  No.  387  had  covered  above  one  thousand  miles 
of  the  Nile  since  I  quitted  Gemai  on  the  17th  November.  The 
papers  will  have  told  you  long  ago  what  is  being  done  here,  but  they 
will  not  have  told  you  that  three-quarters  and  more  of  the  supplies 
for  the  Desert  Camel  Column  has  come  from  our  "  whalers."  .  .  . 
I  have  indeed  had  ample  recompense  for  the  thought  and  labour 
given  to  these  boats  and  to  this  expedition  in  the  unspoken  approval 
of  the  officers  and  me^i.  The  latter  know  well  enough  who  works 
for  them.  ...  I  have  sent  to  Cox  &  Co.  my  pay  and  allowances 
for  last  three  months,  only  £160  or  thereabouts.  It  is  less  pay,  all 
counted,  than  I  got  in  Devonport,  and  I  have  a  lower  position  on 
the  staff  here  than  I  had  there.  So  much  for  what  you  thought 
"  my  sincere  friends  "  would  do  for  me  in  the  way  of  "  local  rank." 
Still,  I  say  to  myself  that  "  it  is  all  right."  War  is  the  sum  of  all 
human  wrongdoing,  and  it  also  holds  every  other  possible  injustice 
in  it.  Never  mind,  "  cheer  up."  It  will  be  all  for  the  best  in  the 
long  run.' 

At  Korti,  in  that  first  week  of  1885,  there  was  only  one  thing 


296     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

wanting — camels.  Had  two  or  three  thousand  additional 
camels  been  collected  at  Korti  by  Christmas  Day  1884,  a 
brigade  of  British  troops  might  have  easily  reached  Metemmeh 
on  the  10th  January,  even  as  things  then  stood  as  regards  men 
and  supplies  ;  and  a  second  brigade  have  been  following  closely 
in  their  wake.  But  there  is  little  to  be  gained  out  of  '  might 
have  beens  '  by  people  who  are  fed  and  nurtured  upon  the 
false  facts  of  doctored  history. 

AVhen  I  reached  Korti  on  4th  January,  the  advanced  portion 
of  the  Desert  Column  had  already  left  that  place  for  Gakdul, 
a  watering-place  half-way  on  the  road  to  Metemmeh,  but  the 
number  of  camels  to  mount  and  carry  supplies,  even  for  a 
force  of  two  thousand  fighting-men,  was  totally  insufficient, 
and  it  was  necessary  to  unload  the  camels  at  Gakdul,  form  a 
depot  there,  and  bring  the  animals  back  agam  to  Korti  for 
another  load  of  supplies.  Thus  the  leading  portion  of  the  force 
left  Korti  on  the  30th  December,  arrived  at  Gakdul  after  a 
forced  march  on  the  morning  of  the  2nd  January,  started  again 
for  Korti  on  the  same  evening,  and  reached  that  place  at  noon 
on  the  5th  January,  having  covered  a  total  distance  of  one 
hundred  and  ninety-six  miles  in  five  days  and  twenty-one 
hours.  This  march  sealed  the  fate  of  the  Desert  Column.  The 
camel  is  a  much  enduring  beast  of  burden,  but  one  hundred 
and  ninety-six  miles  in  one  hundred  and  forty-one  consecutive 
hours  was  more  than  even  he  could  bear.  It  was  pitiable 
to  see  these  poor  beasts  dragging  themselves  to  the  river  on 
the  5th,  6th,  and  7th,  many  of  them  falling  dead  at  the  water's 
edge  as  they  tried  to  drink.  The  main  body  of  the  Desert 
Column  finally  left  Korti  on  8th  January,  reached  Gakdul  on 
the  morning  of  the  12th,  and  at  2  p.m.  on  the  14th  January 
started  on  the  remaining  ninety  miles  to  Metemmeh.  The 
camels  were  now  completely  done.  As  the  Official  History  says, 
'  They  had  been  marching  for  sixteen  days  almost  without  a 
rest  on  a  short  allowance  of  food,  and  with  little  water."  Every 
single  camel  had  been  doing,  or  trying  to  do,  the  work  of  two, 
perhaps  of  three  animals.  I  need  not  delay  over  the  remaining 
history  of  that  unfortunate  column.  It  fought  splendidly  at 
Abu  Klea  and  Abu  Cru,  and  reached  the  Nile  on  the  night  of 
19th  January.  Gordon's  four  steamers,  which  had  been  lying 
there  since  September,  came  into  touch  with  the  column  on  the 


AT  KORTI  297 

afternoon  of  the  21st.  The  22nd  was  spent  in  making  a  naval 
reconnaissance  down  the  river  to  Shendy,  which  town  was 
heavily  shelled.  The  23rd  was  taken  up  with  the  naval  business 
of  carrying  out  repairs  to  the  steamers,  and  at  3  p.m.  on  that 
day,  Captain  Lord  C.  Beresford,  R.N.,  reported  to  Sir  Charles 
Wilson  that  the  vessels  were  ready  to  proceed.  At  8  a.m.  the 
next  day,  the  24th  January,  two  steamers,  Bordein  and  Tela- 
liawiyah,  left  Gubat  for  Khartoum.  All  the  rest  is  too  well 
known.  On  the  28th  the  steamers  came  into  sight  of  Khartoum 
at  11  A.M.,  and,  steaming  slowly  forward  under  a  heavy  fire 
from  several  points,  realised  about  2  p.m.  that  the  city  was  in 
the  hands  of  the  Mahdi.  As  they  were  returning  down-stream 
the  news  of  the  faU  of  Khartoum  two  days  earlier  reached  them. 
Our  great  Nile  Expedition  had  ended  in  failure. 

Meanwhile,  at  Korti,  the  despatch  of  the  infantry  column 
destined  to  proceed  to  Berber  in  boats  by  the  river  had  gone 
forward  unceasingly,  and  on  the  16th  January  I  left  Korti, 
having  by  that  date  seen  two  hundred  and  seventeen  boats 
repaired,  stored  with  a  hundred  days'  supplies,  and  sent  for- 
ward to  Hamdab  at  the  foot  of  the  Fourth  Cataract,  about 
fifty  miles  up-stream  from  Korti.  In  the  dozen  days  spent  on 
the  river  shore  at  Korti  many  people  came  to  look  at  our  work, 
and  exchange  a  word  with  me,  too  many  of  them  a  last  word — 
Herbert  Stewart,  Primrose,  Bumaby,  Wilson,  Piggott  and 
De  Lisle,  Dickson,  Swaine,  Grove,  Talbot,  Pirie,  Peel,  Brockle- 
hurst,  Wardrop,  Rhodes,  M'Cahnont,  Barrow,  Alleyne,  Adye, 
Stuart -Wortley,  Fitzgerald,  Colbome,  Martin,  Sandwith, 
BlundeU,  W^auchope,  Boyd,  O'Neal ;  and  there  would  also 
come  along  this  high  bank  to  have  a  word  about  the  boats 
the  special  correspondents  attached  to  the  Expedition  : 
WiUiams,  Cameron,  St.  Leger,  Herbert,  Colbome,  Bennett- 
Burleigh,  Melton  Prior,  and  another  who  was  something  of  many 
things,  one  of  the  most  dauntless  mortals  I  ever  met  in  life. 
Many  of  these  men  left  their  bones  in  the  Soudan  ;  some  rose 
to  high  place  in  their  profession  ;  but  the  story  of  the  end  of 
the  one  whom  I  have  last  mentioned,  is  so  strange  that  I  must 
teU  it  here. 

I  first  met  him  in  CaUfornia  in  1873,  on  my  way  from 
British  Columbia  to  the  West  Coast  of  Africa.  We  next  met 
in  the  Cataract  of  Dal,  where  I  found  him  attempting  to  work 


298    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

up  the  Nile  in  a  tiny  steam  launch  which  held  himself,  a  stoker, 
and  one  other  person.  He  was  wrecked  shortly  after,  but  got 
up  with  the  Naval  Brigade,  made  the  desert  march,  and  was 
present  with  Lord  Charles  Beresford  in  his  action  at  Wad 
Habeshi  above  Metemmeh  on  the  3rd  February.  On  his  way 
up  the  Nile  he  had  indulged  in  the  then,  and  now,  fashionable 
tourist  pursuit  of  tomb-rifling  and  mummy-lifting  ;  and  he 
had  become  possessed  of  a  really  first-class  mummy,  which, 
still  wrapped  in  its  cerecloths,  had  been  duly  packed  and  sent 
to  ^England.  When  the  Nile  Expedition  closed,  he  went  to 
Somaliland,  and,  somewhere  in  the  foothills  of  Abyssinia,  was 
finally  killed  b}'^  an  elephant,  and  was  buried  on  a  small  island 
in  a  river  flowing  from  Abyssinia  southwards.  The  mummy 
got  at  Luxor  eventually  reached  London.  The  correspondent's 
friends,  anxious  to  get  their  brother's  remains  to  England, 
sent  out  a  man  with  orders  to  proceed  to  the  spot  where  he 
had  been  buried  and  bring  the  remains  home.  This  man 
reached  the  river,  together  with  the  Somali  himters  who  had 
accompanied  the  deceased  on  his  hunting  expedition  the 
previous  year,  but  no  trace  could  be  found  of  the  little  island 
on  which  the  grave  was  made  ;  a  great  flood  had  descended 
from  the  Abyssinian  mountains,  and  the  torrent  had  swept 
the  island  before  it,  leaving  no  trace  of  grave  or  island.  Now 
comes  the  moral.  The  mummy  was  in  due  time  unwound  in 
London,  and  the  experts  in  Egyptology  set  to  work  to  decipher 
the  writings  on  the  wrappings.  Truly  were  they  spirit  rappings ! 
There,  in  characters  about  which  there  was  no  cavilling  on  the 
part  of  the  experts,  were  written  a  varied  series  of  curses  upon 
the  man  who  would  attempt  to  disturb  the  long  repose  of  the 
mummified  dead.  '  May  he,'  ran  the  invocations,  '  be  aban- 
doned by  the  gods.  May  wild  beasts  destroy  his  life  on  earth, 
and  after  his  death  may  the  floods  of  the  avenging  rivers  root 
up  his  bones,  and  scatter  his  dust  to  the  winds  of  heaven.' 

The  only  other  verification  of  the  curse  of  a  mummy  that  I 
have  met  with  is  one  still  more  striking.  It  wiU  be  found 
recorded  in  a  well-known  work  on  Syria  and  Palestine,  The 
Land  and  the  Book,  by  Thomson,  an  American  missionary  in 
Syria.  He  tells  us  that  some  time  in  the  'fifties  of  the  last 
century,  the  hidden  tomb  of  an  old  Phoenician  king  was  dis- 
covered at  Sidon.     The  lid  of  the  sarcophagus  bore  a  long 


THE  FORTUNES  OF  THE  RIVER  COLUMN     299 

inscription  lq  Phoenician  characters.  It  was  found  to  be  a 
continuous  adjuration  to  '  Every  royal  person  and  to  every 
man  not  to  open  my  sepulchre  .  .  .  nor  to  take  away  the 
sarcophagus  of  my  funeral  couch,  nor  to  transfer  me  with  my 
funeral  couch  upon  the  couch  of  another.'  Then  comes  the 
sentence  :  for  '  the  holy  gods  .  .  .  shall  cut  off  that  royal 
person  and  that  man  who  has  opened  my  couch  or  who  has 
abstracted  this  sarcophagus,  and  so  also  the  posterity  of  that 
royal  person  .  .  .  whoever  he  be,  nor  shall  his  root  be  planted 
downward  nor  his  fruit  spring  upward  .  .  .  because  I  am  to 
be  pitied,  snatched  away  before  my  time  like  a  flowing  river.' 
The  missionary  Thomson  (he  is  writing  in  the  late  'fifties)  then 
goes  on  to  say  :  *  These  imprecations  will  scarcely  be  visited 
upon  Louis  Napoleon,  or  the  officers  of  the  French  corvette, 
La  Serieicse,  on  board  of  which  the  sarcophagus  was  carried 
to  France.'  Had  he  waited  another  dozen  years  or  so  he  might 
perhaps  have  omitted  that  final  sentence. 

I  make  this  digression  because  I  have  always  objected  to 
the  ghouhsh  desire  on  the  part  of  so  many  of  our  people  to  rifle 
tombs  in  Egj'pt,  a  practice  which,  in  spite  of  regulations,  has 
obtained  extensively  in  recent  years.  I  have  myself  been  the 
recipient  of  an  official  order  to  embark  eighteen  large  cases  of 
tomb  '  finds  '  as  '  regimental  baggage  '  at  Alexandria. 

I  can  tell  only  in  brief  the  fortunes  of  the  River  Column, 
which  left  the  foot  of  the  Fourth  Cataract  on  the  24th  January 
1885,  in  two  hundred  and  seventeen  of  our  boats,  carrying 
twenty-four  thousand  men,  fully  provisioned  for  three  months. 
Of  the  river  and  the  country  before  us  nothing  was  known 
beyond  the  fact  that  the  former,  for  a  distance  of  over  one 
hundred  miles,  was  regarded  as  bemg  hopelessly  impracticable 
for  boats  of  any  description,  and  that  the  shores  consisted  of 
rocks  piled  together  in  such  confused  masses  as  to  render 
the  passage  of  horses  and  camels  along  them  impossible  for 
long  distances.  *  You  wiU  get  your  boats  over  the  cataracts 
between  Wady  Haifa  and  Dongola,'  a  traveller  in  these  regions 
said  to  me  in  London  in  September,  '  but  you  will  never  get 
them  over  the  cataracts  of  the  Monassir  country.'  It  was 
this  country  of  the  Monassir  that  now  lay  in  our  front,  and,  to 
add  to  its  natural  embarrassments  of  land  and  water,  the  whole 
of  the  Monassir  tribe  and  that  of  the  Robatab,  with  Arabs 


300     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

from  Berber,  had  elected  to  try  their  strength  against  us  in 
the  worst  part  of  the  route,  a  long  defile  known  as  the  Shukook 
Pass. 

From  the  24th  January  to  the  10th  February  we  worked 
away  at  these  rocks  and  cataracts  harder  than  ever,  but  with 
the  difference  that  the  Toilers  of  the  River  had  to  be  protected 
from  hostile  attack  along  the  shores.  To  me  feU  this  duty, 
and  I  was  now  riding  the  rocks  on  an  Arab  pony,  as  before  I 
had  been  breasting  the  rapids  in  a  boat.  But,  though  moving 
on  the  shore,  I  had  still  charge  of  the  boat  advance,  the  official 
phrase  being,  '  to  command  the  advanced  guard  both  by  land 
and  water."  The  double  duty  involved  in  these  orders  was 
arduous  but  interesting.  One  had  to  keep  an  eye  all  round  the 
compass  ;  in  front  and  on  the  right  flank  for  the  enemy,  on 
the  river  to  the  left,  and  to  the  rear  upon  our  own  people.  By 
this  time  I  had  come  to  know  the  various  values  of  the  Nile 
waters  pretty  accurately,  what  our  boats  could  do  against 
the  Nile,  and  what  the  Nile  could  do  at  its  worst  against  our 
boats.  Thus  I  was  able  by  noon  each  day  to  form  an  estimate 
of  the  spot  on  the  river  shore  which  a  force  of  four  companies 
of  infantry  would  be  able  to  reach  by  evening.  I  then  looked 
about  for  the  best  camping-place  on  the  shore,  waited  until 
the  first  boat  had  arrived  there,  gave  orders  for  the  thorn 
bushes  to  be  cut,  laid  out  the  ground  for  the  zereba,  and  then 
went  forward  again  with  the  forty  hussars  and  the  score  of 
camel-men  to  explore  the  rocks  in  front  for  six  or  eight  miles, 
getting  back  at  nightfall  to  find  the  advanced  guard  of  four 
or  six  companies  assembled  there,  and  all  made  ready  for  the 
night.  The  main  body  of  the  River  Column  would  be  camped 
from  two  to  six  miles  behind,  according  to  the  difficulties  their 
boats  had  met  in  the  day's  ascent  through  the  cataracts. 
These  latter  were  even  more  formidable  than  any  we  had 
encountered  below  Dongola,  but  our  men  were  now  thoroughly 
seasoned  ;  they  had  become  exceedingly  expert  in  all  kinds  of 
bad  water,  and,  but  for  the  necessities  imposed  by  the  presence 
of  an  active  enemy  always  only  a  few  miles  in  our  front, 
it  would  have  been  possible  for  the  column  to  make  an 
average  distance  of  perhaps  eight  oi'  ten  miles  daily.  With 
an  enemy,  however,  in  proximity,  it  became  necessary  to 
keep    the    battahons    concentrated   at   night,    excepting    the 


THE  MAHDI  IN  KHARTOUM  301 

advanced  guard  under  my  command,  which  had  its  separate 
camp  some  miles  in  front  of  the  main  body. 

On  the  5th  and  6th  February  some  strange  things  happened. 
I  reached,  early  on  the  5th,  a  high  ridge  of  black  rocks  with  a 
line  of  white  quartz  rock  at  top  running  at  a  right  angle  from 
the  shore,  and  having  an  ugly  pass  choked  with  large  boulders 
between  its  western  end  and  the  river.     A  slave-boy,  who  had 
come  to  us  from  the  Arabs,  declared  that  his  late  owners  were 
behind  this  ridge.     We,  therefore,  threaded  the  tumbled  rocks 
with  caution,  passed  the  end  of  the  ridge,  and  found  clearer 
ground  at  its  further  side.     The  pass  between  ridge  and  river 
had  breastworks  of  loose  stones  in  it,  and  a  rude  hut  of  the 
same  construction  stood  in  its  centre.     I  climbed  the  rock 
ridge  to  the  right  and  had  a  lengthened  survey  of  the  rugged 
land  in  front.     It  was  all  a  tossed  and  tumbled  region  of  black 
and  lighter  coloured  rocks,  and  the  river,  where  it  could  be  seen, 
deep  sunken  between  its  iron  shores,  was  a  tossing,  tumbling 
torrent   of  water.     This  ridge,   Kirbekan,   which   rose   about 
four  hundred  feet  above  the  river,  had  been  occupied  by  the 
Mahdists  two  days  earlier  ;  they  had  left  it  for  the  real  Shukook 
Pass,  the  entrance  to  which  we  could  see  two  miles  forward, 
marked  by  a  particularly  black  and  forbidding  mass  of  rocks. 
I  did  not  get  back  to  the  bivouac  till  after  dark,  and  I  found 
there  an  unusual  order  awaiting  me.     It  was  to  halt  horses 
and  boats  next  morning,  and  await  orders  in  camp.     These 
came  early.     They  were  of  strange  and  fatal  import.     The  end 
had  come  suddenly.     The  Desert  Column  had  reached  the 
NUe  at  Metemmeh  ;  Wilson  had  found  Khartoum  in  the  hands 
of  the  Mahdi.     He  had  returned  to  Metemmeh  with  the  greatest 
difficulty.     Our  column  was  to  stand  fast  untU  further  orders 
were  received.     Earle  joined  me  next  morning.     I  took  him 
to  a  high  hill  in  the  neighbourhood  of  the  zereba,  from  the 
summit  of  which  he  could  see  Kerbekan  and  many  other  hills 
ahead.     Seated    there    alone    we    talked    of  the  future.     We 
were  old  friends,  dating  back  to  the  days  of  the  Red  River  and 
Montreal  in  1870.     Earle  was  a  man  of  very  fine  character. 
He  had  seen  service  in  the  Crimea,  at  Alma,  Inkermann,  and 
the  Siege.     It  was  curious  that  now,  when  we  had  talked  over 
all  our  present  prospects  and  chances,  his  mind  seemed  prone 
to  revert  to  these  old  scenes  of  Crimean  service.     He  described, 


302     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

as  we  walked  back  to  the  zereba,  the  day  of  the  Alma,  thirty 
years  earlier,  '  the  last  of  the  old  style  of  battles,'  he  called  it, 
before  the  rifle  in  the  hands  of  the  mfantry  soldier  had  put  an 
end  to  the  pomp  and  circumstance  of  war  for  ever. 

Two  days  later,  on  the  9th,  I  was  ordered  forward  again, 
this  time  to  find  the  black  ridge  of  Kirbekan  bristling  with  the 
Mahdi's  spearmen.  It  didn't  matter  now.  I  had  seen  the 
land  beyond  the  ridge  on  the  5th,  had  climbed  the  ridge  itself, 
exammed  the  pass  between  ridge  and  river  ;  there  was  nothing 
more  to  learn  about  it ;  and  when  General  Earle  arrived  with 
his  staff  at  midda}'-  on  the  9th,  I  had  the  plan  of  attack  ready  for 
him,  the  troops  in  position  twelve  hundred  yards  in  front  of 
the  enemy's  ridge. 

Things  had  fallen  out  most  fortunately  for  me.  Had  I  been 
two  days  earlier  at  Kirbekan  I  should  have  found  the  Arabs 
there,  and  could  not  have  examined  the  length  and  depth  of 
the  formidable  position  which  they  held.  A  day  later  it  would 
have  been  the  same,  but  on  the  5th  I  had  just  hit  off  one  of 
the  two  daj^s  in  which  the  ridge  was  clear  of  the  enemy.  I  had, 
in  fact,  eaten  my  midday  biscuit  and  cheese  on  the  very 
spot  which,  five  days  later,  formed  the  key  of  the  enemy's 
position. 

But  Earle  and  Brackenbury  had  a  plan  of  their  own  for  a 
front  attack,  and,  of  course,  I  said  nothing  about  my  plan 
until  they  asked  me  what  I  thought  of  theirs.  Then  I  said  my 
say.  It  was  not  to  attack  in  front,  for  I  laiew  every  inch  of 
the  ground,  having  spent  half  an  hour  on  foot  stumbling  over 
its  maze  of  boulders  four  days  before.  '  What  then  ?  '  they 
asked.  '  March  round  the  left  flank  of  the  ridge,'  I  said,  '  and 
attack  from  the  rear  ;  the  ground  is  open  on  that  side.'  This 
plan  was  finally  agreed  to,  provided  I  would  run  a  line  that 
evening  round  the  flank  I  proposed  to  turn,  and  make  assurance 
doubly  sure  that  the  ground  was  as  feasible  to  the  foot  in 
practice  as  my  eye,  looking  at  it  from  the  top  of  the  ridge  on 
the  5th,  had  deemed  it  to  be.  A  couple  of  hours  before  sunset 
I  took  a  small  patrol  out,  and  working  round  through  the  desert 
unobserved  by  the  Arabs,  got  well  in  rear  of  their  line  on 
Kerbekan,  so  near  to  them  that,  lookmg  over  a  lower  spur  on 
the  reverse  side  of  their  position,  I  could  see  their  movements 
on  and  behind  the  ridge,  and  count  their  numbers.     I  had  got 


THE  ACTION  OF  KIRBEKAN  303 

to  within  five  hundred  yards  of  their  supper  fires.  I  got  back 
after  sunset  to  the  bivouac.  Earle  was  alone,  sitting  on  an 
old  sakeyeh  wheel.  I  told  him  that  m  an  hour  and  a  quarter 
his  force  could  be  in  rear  of  the  Arab  position,  marching  over 
easy  ground.  He  sent  for  Brackenbury.  '  The  account  is  so 
favourable,'  he  said  when  the  latter  officer  appeared,  '  that  I 
think  we  must  give  up  the  idea  of  a  front  attack,  move  round 
the  left  flank  of  the  ridge,  and  assault  from  the  rear.'  This 
manoeuvre  was  done  early  the  following  morning  with  com- 
plete success.  We  turned  the  position  on  its  left,  got  behind 
the  ridge  and  the  boulder  kopjes  near  the  river,  cut  the  Arab 
force  in  two,  isolated  its  vanguard,  holding  the  rocks,  from  its 
main  body  and  its  reserves  in  the  Shukook. 

The  moment  the  head  of  our  column  appeared  round  the 
enemy's  left  flank,  a  precipitate  retreat  of  the  main  body  began 
from  behind  the  position  to  their  camp,  at  the  entrance  of  the 
Shukook  Pass.  Our  little  body  of  hussars  pounded  along 
as  best  their  tired  horses  could  go.  Of  the  Dervishes,  some 
jumped  into  the  river  on  their  left ;  others  hid  in  the  clumps  of 
boulders,  and  had  a  shot  at  us  as  we  appeared.  A  few  were 
killed,  but  by  far  the  larger  number  reached  the  Shukook 
and  got  away  into  its  labyrinths.  Meanwhile  the  vanguard 
on  the  ridge  and  in  the  kopjes,  about  three  hundred  in  number, 
abandoned  to  their  fate,  met  their  death  bravely,  and  only 
succumbed  to  volleys  of  the  infantry  after  they  had  inflicted  a 
loss  upon  us  very  serious  in  its  nature,  although  not  great  in 
number.  Three  officers  and  four  men  were  killed,  and  four 
officers  and  forty-three  men  were  wounded  ;  the  officers  lost 
were  Greneral  Earle  and  Colonels  Eyre  and  Coveney.  At  the 
mouth  of  the  Shukook  Pass  we  came  upon  the  Dervish  camp 
abandoned.  We  found  in, it  eight  or  ten  Arab  standards,  a 
lot  of  donkeys,  and  a  few  camels  ;  but,  as  we  had  only  about 
twenty  hussars  present,  most  of  the  animals  could  not  be 
secured,  and  many  of  them  got  away,  like  their  masters,  into 
the  rocks  at  the  entrance  of  the  Shukook  Pass.  I  had  here 
the  closest  shave  of  getting  a  bullet  in  the  head  I  ever  experi- 
enced. I  had  got  to  the  top  of  a  cluster  of  high  rocks  to  have 
a  better  survey  of  the  masses  of  rocks  surrounding  our  little 
party,  and  I  was  leaning  against  a  big  one  for  a  steadier  sweej) 
with  the  glass  of  the  hUls  around  when  a  bullet,  fired  from  across 


304    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

the  gorge  within  a  hundred  yards'  range,  flattened  itself  on  the 
rock  six  inches  above  my  head.  The  man  was  so  near  that  the 
hit  was  simultaneous  with  the  smoke  and  the  report  of  the 
rifle.  I  was  down  from  my  perch  in  a  jiffy,  and  got  three 
men  from  below  ;  then  we  went  up  again  to  the  rocks.  I  had 
marked  the  exact  spot  on  the  opposite  rock  from  which  my 
friend  had  fired  ;  the  three  carbines  were  laid  upon  it ;  I  put 
my  helmet  where  I  had  first  stood  ;  my  friend  fired  again,  and 
at  the  same  instant  three  shots  went  off  from  our  side.  He 
fired  no  more. 

We  buried  our  dead  in  the  evening  near  the  zereba  from 
which  we  had  marched  in  the  morning. 

The  command  of  the  River  Column  now  fell  to  Brigadier- 
General  Henry  Brackenbury  as  next  senior  officer  to  Earle. 
On  the  morning  of  the  11th  February  we  were  going  forward 
once  more  on  the  old  familiar  road.  During  the  halt  on  this 
day's  march  I  rode  back  over  the  scene  of  the  fight  on  the 
previous  day.  '  Dead  men,'  they  say,  '  tell  no  tales  ' ;  but  on 
a  battlefield  no  more  eloquent  spokesman  can  call  to  him  who 
wiU  listen.  Here  the  enemy's  unburied  dead  told  the  story  of 
their  revolt — these  old  grey-bearded  veterans,  these  mere  boys, 
these  strong  men  in  the  flov/er  of  their  age,  as  they  lay  in  every 
attitude  of  painful  death.  They  had  fought  to  the  last  cart- 
ridge for  the  homeland.  Their  '  punishment '  at  our  hands 
had  been  severe.  The  rocks  glistened  with  the  leaden  splashes 
of  our  rifle  bullets,  where  continuous  volleys  had  searched 
every  nook  and  crevice. 

But  here  I  come  to  an  incident  which  gave  the  acutest  point 
to  the  drama  of  this  time.  By  merest  chance,  as  the  crew 
of  one  of  the  boats  were  at  their  old  work  of  towing  along  the 
shore,  a  soldier  of  the  Corn  walls  noticed  a  small  native  saddle 
lying  amongst  the  tumbled  rocks,  evidently  dropped  there  by 
a  fugitive  from  the  fight  of  the  day  before.  A  black  goatskin 
bag  was  fastened  to  the  saddle,  and  in  the  bag  the  man  found 
a  scrap  of  soiled  paper.  He  might  well  have  thrown  the 
crumpled  scrap  away,  but  his  intelligence  prompted  him  to 
bring  it  to  his  captain.  From  the  captain  it  passed  to  the 
colonel  of  the  battalion  (Richardson).  On  my  return  to  camp 
before  sunset,  I  learnt  that  the  Arabic  writmg  on  the  bit  of 
paper  had  been  deciphered  sufficiently  to  let  us  know  it  con- 


ALL  OVER  305 

tained  *  bad  news.'    Later  on,  the  whole  was  made  clear.    This 
is  what  it  said  : — 

'  On  the  night  of  the  26th  January  the  army  of  the  Mahdi  entered 
Khartoum  and  took  the  forts,  city,  and  vessels  in  the  river  :  the 
traitor  Gordon  was  killed.  Inform  your  troops  of  this  signal 
triumph  which  God  has  given  to  the  arms  of  the  Prophet  of  His 
Prophet.' 

This  was  a  copy  of  an  original  letter  sent  from  Berber  by 
Mohammed  el  Khier,  the  Emir  of  the  Mahdi,  to  Abdul  Wad 
el  Kailik,  the  head  Emir  opposed  to  us  here.  I  took  the  letter 
to  the  lower  camp.  It  was  the  first  news  we  had  had  of  the 
fate  of  Gordon.  We  knew,  six  days  previously,  that  Khartoum 
had  fallen  ;  now  we  knew  Gordon  was  dead.  He  had  written 
a  few  months  before  : — 

'  Earle  does  not  come  to  extricate  me  ;  he  comes  to  extricate  the 
garrisons,  which  affects  our  national  honour.  I  hope  he  may 
succeed,  and  that  the  national  honour  will  reward  him ;  but  I  am 
not  the  rescued  lamb,  and  will  not  be.' 

A  strange  chance  had  brought  the  first  intimation  of  his  death 
to  us  almost  on  the  very  spot  where  Earle  had  faUen,  and  both 
men  had  now  passed  beyond  the  reach  of  rescue  and  reward. 

The  receipt  of  this  news  had  brought  the  Arabs  out  of  the 
Shukook  fastness  to  fight  us  at  Kerbekan  in  the  very  worst 
position  they  could  have  selected  for  that  purpose. 

I  must  finish  the  record  of  the  River  Column.  We  passed 
another  group  of  cataracts  above  the  Shukook  Pass,  and  found 
good  water  beyond  them.  We  passed  also  the  place  where  the 
steamer  Abbas  lay  wrecked  on  the  rocks  of  Hebbeh,  the  scene 
of  the  murder  of  Stewart,  Power,  and  Herbin,  and  on  24th 
February  reached  Huella,  a  few  miles  below  Mograt  Island.  All 
the  worst  water  on  the  Nile  lay  behind  us  ;  we  had  started  from 
Hamdab  with  two  hundred  and  seventeen  boats  ;  two  hundred 
and  fifteen  had  arrived  at  the  top  of  the  long-supposed  im- 
passable cataracts  of  Monassir,  carrying  still  sixty  days'  food 
supplies  for  the  entire  force.  The  men  were  in  magnificent 
condition  ;  the  boats  were  as  sound  and  fit  for  further  work 
as  the  day  they  had  left  England  five  months  earlier.  I  was 
taking  the  mounted  troops  forward  for  another  day's  work 

u 


306    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

when  an  express  messenger  arrived  from  Korti  carrj^^ing  urgent 
orders  for  the  return  to  that  place  of  the  whole  flotilla.  The 
Desert  Column  had  collapsed  as  an  effective  force.  It  was 
returning  on  foot  to  Korti.  The  boats  turned  back  to  Hebbeh, 
and  the  mounted  troops  went  forward  for  the  last  time  towards 
Abu  Hamed.  This,  the  last  day  of  our  reconnaissance  work, 
was  the  longest  3^et  done.  Between  the  forward  march  to 
within  sight  of  Mograt  Island  and  the  return  to  El  Kab  we 
must  have  covered  twenty-four  miles,  the  greater  part  of  which 
was  in  soft  sand.  One  horse  and  four  camels  died  of  exhaustion. 
Nine  days  later  we  reached  Meroe.  I  found  an  order  there 
to  take  command  of  the  force  which  was  to  hold  the  place  during 
the  summer.  We  were  to  tent  the  troops  and  prepare  for 
six  months  of  blinding  heat.  The  Home  Government  had 
decided  upon  a  campaign  in  the  autumn,  and  '  to  smash  the 
Mahdi.^ 

I  have  sometimes  thought  that,  for  some  inscrutable  reason, 
the  Almighty  had  given  the  English  people  a  marvellous  faculty 
of  acquhing  wealth  in  peace,  only  equalled  by  their  wonderful 
power  of  wasting  wealth  in  war — '  muddling  through,'  I  think 
they  call  it.  I  remember  the  Greeks  in  Cj^prus  used  to  exclaim 
as  they  watched  our  ways,  '  Is  it  not  a  pity  that  God,  who 
has  given  these  people  so  much  money,  should  not  have  also 
bestowed  upon  them  some  brains  ?  '     Or  is  it  only 

'  A  way  we  have  in  the  Anny  ? 
A  way  we  have  in  the  Navy  ? ' 

And  if  this  be  the  case,  could  not  the  man}^  Varsities  which 
we  now  possess  trj^-  their  hands  at  mending  that  particular 
*  way,'  lest  it  should  end  all  our  other  ways  ? 


CHAPTER   XVIII 

MeroiJ.     Wady  Haifa.     Kosheh.     Advance  of  the  Dervishes,     Ginniss, 

Here,  then,  at  Meroe,  or  Abu  Dom,  I  found  mj-self  on  the 
8th  March,  in  command  of  another  advance-guard  — '  the 
farthest  position  up  the  river  which  we  are  to  hold  for  the 
summer.'     I  write  thence  : — 

'  I  have  a  battahon  of  the  Royal  Highlanders,  two  guns,  a  troop 
of  cavalry,  one  hundred  camel  corps  (Egjrptian),  a  section  of 
Engineers,  fifty  boats,  and  one  hundred  transport  camels.  We  have 
to  hut  the  men,  put  the  place  in  a  state  of  defence,  and  reduce 
what  is  now  chaos  to  something  like  order.  I  shall,  however,  have 
some  sort  of  a  rest  in  other  ways  :  shall  be  able  to  take  off  my  boots 
at  night,  get  clean  things,  and  lie  down  on  something  besides  sand. 
We  are  on  the  left  bank  of  the  Nile,  nearly  opj)osite  Gebel  Barkal, 
the  site  of  the  old  capital  of  Queen  Candace's  kingdom,  which  is  still 
a  perfect  mine  of  relics,  columns  and  capitals,  broken  pedestals, 
overturned  tombs,  stone  lions,  and  strange  sheep-faced  animals,  all 
lying  in  confused  ruin,  half  or  wholly  buried  in  mounds  of  masonry 
and  rubbish.  The  rock  face  to  the  east  of  the  flat-topped  mountain 
is  hollowed  into  a  temple,  covered  with  hieroglyphics.  The  place  is 
a  mine  of  Egyptian  art  and  antiquities  as  yet  untouched  ;  it  is 
fifteen  hundred  miles  from  the  sea,  and  is,  nevertheless,  by  no  means 
the  last  remnant  of  that  once  mighty  Empire.  A  group  of  eight 
pyramids  lies  a  little  way  to  the  south  of  the  hill ;  some  of  them 
are  very  perfect,  scarcely  a  stone  being  out  of  place  ;  they  are  small, 
only  about  forty  feet  in  height,  but  beautifully  built.  If  the  Mahdi 
or  his  myrmidons  give  me  time  during  the  summer,  I  would  like 
to  clear  away  some  of  these  piles  of  rubbish,  and  examine  the  ruins.' 

A  week  later  I  wrote  : — 

'  A  week  of  hut  building,  cleaning,  scraping,  entrenching.  .  .  . 
We  are  here  about  one  thousand  Robinson  Crusoes,  building  mud 
cabins,  biscuit  box  lean-to's,  and  shelters  of  palm  leaves  and  straw, 
the  advanced  sentinels  in  this  great  Soudan  desert.     Every  one  is 

307 


308    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

bent  upon  making  the  best  of  it,  and  many  an  old  trick  of  camp  or 
lodgment  learnt  long  ago  in  the  North- West  comes  in  handy  now. 
...  So  far,  the  heat  is  not  trying,  the  nights  are  pleasant,  the 
thermometer  ninety-three  degrees  to  ninety-seven  degrees  in  the 
afternoons.  ...  If  I  were  to  let  my  pen  run  as  to  the  twists  and 
turns  that  led  to  the  loss  of  Khartoum  and  the  death  of  poor  Gordon 
I  would  be  writing  for  a  month.  Khartoum  was  lost  in  London, 
in  Cairo,  in  Assouan,  in  Haifa,  in  Dongola  .  .  .  but  there  would  be 
no  use  in  speaking  about  it  now.  .  .  .  How  often  I  used  to  speculate 
upon  the  effect  the  news  from  the  Soudan  would  have  in  England  ; 
hopes  raised  to  the  highest  pitch  by  partial  successes — for  they  were 
only  partial — of  the  march  across  the  desert,  and  then,  total 
collapse.  Ah  !  you  may  well  say  the  "  wasted  precious  days  of 
October  and  November,"  flung  away  through  sheer  stupidity, 
selfishness,  and  narrow-mindedness.  Poor  W.  frantic,  but  unable 
to  move  a  gigantic  machine,  the  wheels  of  which  had  got  clogged  in 
the  hands  of  men  who  sought  only  their  own  conceits,  and  saw  only 
through  the  glass  of  their  own  vanities.  Is  it  not  strange  that  the 
very  first  war  during  the  Victorian  Era  in  which  the  object  was 
entirely  noble  and  -uorthy  should  have  proved  an  utter  and  com- 
plete failure,  beaten  at  the  finish  by  forty-eight  hours  ?  These 
things  are  not  chances,  they  are  meant,  and  the  men  and  nations  who 
realise  that  fact  are  fortunate,  for  then  they  can  learn.  What  a 
lesson  does  the  whole  story  of  this  Expedition  teach  !  Up  to  the 
last  they  were  saying  there  would  be  httle  or  no  fighting.  Poor 
T.  thought  the  same.  "  I  will  believe  in  the  Mahdi  fighting  when 
I  hear  the  whistle  of  his  soldiers'  bullets,"  he  said  a  day  or  two 
before  leaving  Korti.  "  It 's  a  windbag,"  another  remarked  to 
me.' 

Three  weeks  later,  28th  March,  I  find  the  following  : — 

'  I  have  been  up  half  the  night,  owing  to  a  violent  sand-storm 
having  made  the  sentries  think  the  Arabs  were  coming  on.  .  .  . 
Even  now  the  temperature  goes  up  some  days  to  a  hundred  and  ten 
degrees.  A  telegram  last  evening  brings  news  of  the  Reserves  being 
called  out,  and  fifteen  thousand  men  ordered  to  India.  The  close 
of  this  nineteenth  century  seems  likely  to  be  as  bad  for  England  as 
that  of  the  eighteenth  was.  I  cannot  think  that,  A;\'ith  war  with 
Russia  all  but  declared,  the  flower  of  our  fighting  force  and  the 
best  of  our  thinking  power  will  be  left  in  the  Soudan.  If  we  are  to 
fight  Russia  there  must  be  no  humbug  this  time.  A  defeat  would 
mean  National  death.  In  the  event  of  m  ar  between  Russia  and 
the  Afghans  we  must  either  knuckle  down  or  withdraw  from  the 


LETTERS  HOME  309 

Soudan.  We  can't  keep  half  the  army  and  all  the  staff  up  in  this 
wilderness. 

'  1st  May. — During  the  past  week  our  mud  roosts  have  been 
fluttered  by  news  of  sudden  movement  down-stream.  Renter  gives 
us  daily  the  heads  of  pohtical  and  other  news,  and  the  first  intima- 
tion of  probable  evacuation  came  in  that  way.  \Vhat  an  extra- 
ordinary people  we  are  !  For  eight  weeks  we  have  been  busy  all 
day  and  every  day  building  huts,  and  making  ready  for  the  hot 
season  :  now,  when  the  huts  are  built  and  the  hot  season  is  upon 
us,  we  up  anchors  and  away.  The  Arabs  regard  us  as  people  pos- 
sessed by  '■  jins  "  or  devils,  and  this  change  of  front  will  not  tend 
to  lessen  the  idea.  The  Nile  is  now  at  its  lowest  stage  of  water, 
but  our  poor  old  boats  will  again  do  the  work.  All  our  camels  are 
gone,  the  English  boats  alone  remain.  .  .  .  My  huts  are  real  beauties. 
...  So  the  Suakim  bubble  has  burst  and  this  railway  is  given  up. 
It  was  sheer  madness.  These  poor  guides  of  ours  are  hopeless  : 
they  differ  from  the  Bourbons  inasmuch  as  they  forget  everything 
and  learn  nothing. 

'  22nd  May. — This  should  be  my  last  letter  from  Meroe.  We 
march  on  the  26th  for  Dongola  and  Egypt.  They  have  given  me 
the  hot  job.  I  command  the  rearguard  to  Dongola,  picking  up 
as  we  go  the  various  lots  of  horses,  camels,  guns,  and  men  at  the 
different  stations.  The  weather  has  become  excessively  hot,  one 
hundred  and  ten  and  one  hundred  and  fifteen  degrees  in  the  shade, 
with  a  wind  that  seems  to  come  from  a  furnace  mouth.  To-day  we 
have  the  chmax  :  first  stifling  heat,  then  a  vast  sand-storm  ;  and 
behind  the  storm  came  some  most  welcome  rain,  but  not  enough 
even  to  sprinkle  the  hard,  hot  lips  of  the  fevered  desert.  All  prepara- 
tions are  complete,  and  at  daylight  on  Tuesday  I  blow  up  the  fort 
and  move  off  for  Dongola.' 

So  on  the  26th  May  we  blew  up  our  little  fort  with  gun- 
cotton  and  marched  off  from  Abu  Dom  ('  the  father  of  Dom 
palms  ').  I  was  sorry  to  leave  the  place  ;  no  spot  of  greater 
interest  and  possessing  more  of  what  makes  for  real  Nile 
beauty  exists  along  the  fifteen  hundred  miles  from  there  to  the 
sea. 

'  You  cannot  Uve  much  with  the  Arabs,'  I  wrote, '  without  learning 
to  hke  them.  They  are  quick,  courteous,  very  brave,  good-looking. 
As  to  their  deceit,  etc.,  of  which  we  hear  so  much,  I  don't  think  they 
are  a  bit  worse  than  the  average  acquaintance,  I  might  even  say 
"  friend,"  one  finds  in  clubs  and  professions  in  the  daily  intercourse 
of  hfe  in  England.     We  call  them  "  rebels,"  but  right  is  wholly  on 


310     STR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

their  side.     The  abominations  of  the  Egyptian  rule  were  beyond 
words  to  express  their  atrocity.' 

There  is  such  a  delightful  paragraph  in  the  Official  History  of 
the  Soudan  Cam^mign,  dealing  with  our  retreat  at  this  time, 
that  I  cannot  omit  quoting  it  : — 

'  As  it  was  certain  that  anarchy  would  immediately  follow  our 
withdrawal,  and  probable  that  a  retreat  on  our  part  would  allow  the 
dormant  hostility  of  the  natives  to  find  vent,  it  was  necessary  that 
the  retreat,  especially  of  the  advanced  portion  of  the  force,  should 
be  conducted  as  rapidly  and  unexpectedly  as  possible.  Jandet 
Effendi,  the  Vakil  of  Dongola,  who  had  taken  the  place  of  the  deposed 
Mudir,  was  at  once  informed  of  the  intended  retreat.  He  begged 
for  fifteen  days'  start,  before  our  policy  was  made  generally  known, 
in  order  that  he  might  take  what  steps  he  could  to  mitigate  the 
murder  and  the  rapine  for  which  he  believed  our  retirement  would 
be  the  signal.  This  was  granted  him  and  he  at  once  started  down 
the  river.' 

Unfortunately  for  the  truth  of  the  picture  here  given,  it  hap- 
pened to  be  mj?-  duty  to  follow  the  excellent  Vakil  Jandet 
Effendi  a  few  days  after  he  had  descended  the  river  in  his  self- 
imposed  mission  of  mercy  and  mitigation  of  suffering.  Jandet, 
who  was  a  Circassian  of  the  well-known  tj'pe,  had  literally 
swept  both  banks  of  the  Nile  of  everything  that  he  and  his 
bashi-bazouks  could  laj'  hands  on.  The  silver  which  these  un- 
fortunate peasants  had  gathered  by  selling  us  their  provisions 
and  their  labour  during  the  past  six  months,  their  camels 
and  donkeys,  had  been  carried  clean  ofif.  Jandet  travelled 
in  a  large  house-boat  on  the  river.  His  mj-rmidons  scoured 
the  palm  patches  and  the  dhourra  plots  on  both  banks.  When 
Jandet  reached  Dongola  his  house-boat  was  loaded  with  chests 
of  silver  piastre  coin  thus  gathered.  Such  is  history  '  as  she 
is  wrote.' 

The  march  from  Meroe  to  Dongola,  two  hundred  miles,  in 
end  of  Maj'^  and  early  June,  was  the  hottest  work  that  had  ever 
fallen  to  vay  lot.  I  had  to  pick  up  at  each  summer  station  in 
succession — Korti,  Tani,  Kurot,  Abu  Gus,  and  Handak — the 
horses,  guns,  camels,  and  transport  of  the  whole  force,  all  the 
remnants  of  the  Desert  Column  that  could  not  be  put  into  our 
old  boats.  I  can  never  forget  the  last  day's  march  from 
Handak  to  Dongola.     A  desert  blizzard  blew  straight  in  our 


THE  REARGUARD  311 

faces,  hot,  strong,  and  bitterly  biting  with  the  grit,  sand,  and 
small  stones  that  it  hurled  in  our  teeth.  Camels  and  horses 
often  turned  aside,  unable  to  face  it.  We  had  orders  to  leave 
no  camels  behind  us.  The  wretched  animals  that  had  been 
in  the  Desert  Column  were  spectres,  mere  bones  and  sores. 
As  they  fell  they  had  to  be  shot  by  the  rearguard. 

Two-thirds  of  the  camels  collected  at  Tani  and  Kurot  thus 
perished.  I  had  taken  the  precaution  of  feeding  up  my  camels 
at  Meroe  for  weeks  before  the  move,  giving  them  the  large 
stores  of  grain  laid  in  in  anticipation  of  the  autumn  campaign, 
and  ordered  to  be  destroyed  on  evacuation,  and  although  the 
camels  had  a  double  distance  to  travel  to  reach  Dongola,  I 
lost  only  one  or  two  on  the  march  down.  But  the  strangest 
part  of  the  proceeding  was  that  the  general  officer  in  command 
of  the  force  thought  fit  to  report  me  to  the  commander-in-chief 
for  not  having  obeyed  the  orders  to  destroy  the  grain  by  fire. 
Called  on  for  an  explanation,  I  replied  that,  although  I  had 
departed  from  the  letter,  I  had  still  observed  the  spirit  of  the 
order,  inasmuch  as  I  had  used  the  grain  as  extra  fuel  to  keep 
the  ebbing  fire  of  life  m  my  unfortunate  camels,  and  while 
expressing  regret  at  even  the  seeming  departure  from  the  letter 
of  the  regulation,  I  added  that  my  penitential  feelings  were 
somewhat  mitigated  and  consoled  by  the  reflection  that  while 
the  camels  of  the  censorious  commander  had  lost  some  eighty 
per  cent,  of  their  numbers  on  the  short  march,  mme  on  the 
longer  route  had  not  lost  above  two  per  cent.  My  temporary 
commander  at  the  time  was  an  excellent  but  choleric  little 
man,  and  I  learnt  afterwards  from  one  of  the  staff  that,  as  the 
thermometer  was  that  da}^  about  one  hundred  and  twenty 
degrees  Fahrenheit  in  the  shade,  he  was  able  to  relieve  his  over- 
burdened feeUngs  when  perusing  mj^  letter,  written  on  a  sake- 
yeh  wheel  at  Debbali  in  the  middle  of  the  night  and  left  at  his 
liut  when  I  passed  it  at  daybreak  three  hours  later,  only  by 
making  several  short  leaps  into  the  air  as  he  ejaculated,  '  Con- 
soled ! — consoled  ! — mitigated  ! — mitigated  ! — d d !  " 

At  Dongola  my  rearguard  duties  ended,  and  I  got  once  agam 
into  my  old  boat.  I  shall  never  forget  the  change  from  shore 
to  river.  The  heat  was  terrific,  but  it  felt  as  nothmg  on  the 
water.  As  we  sped  down  the  shrunken  but  still  lordly  Nile, 
now  changed  in  colour  from  the  old  muddy  tint  to  a  bright 


312     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

green  hue — ^the  true  '  eau  du  Nil '  of  the  Parisian  fashion-plates 
— our  boats  'were  stiU  able  to  run  the  Third.  Cataract,  Shaban, 
Kaibar,  and  Amara  down  to  Dal. 

How  strange  these  old  scenes  appeared  !  It  was  only  six 
months  since  I  had  left  them,  but  it  seemed  like  as  many  years. 

Finally,  I  reached  Wady  Haifa  in  mid-June,  to  find  a  tele- 
gram there  from  Lord  Wolseley  offering  me  the  command  of  the 
new  frontier,  henceforth  to  be  fixed  at  Wady  Haifa.  I  ac- 
cepted the  offer,  with  two  months'  leave  of  absence  to  England, 
and  was  in  London  on  the  30th  June.  In  two  months'  time  I 
was  back  in  Egypt  again.  On  9th  September  I  reached  Wady 
Haifa.  Things  had  changed  all  round.  The  Nile  was  at  its 
topmost  flood.  The  Dervishes  were  at  Dongola.  They  had 
followed  our  retreat  closely  ;  their  outposts  were  at  the  head 
of  the  Third  Cataract. 

•You  can  imagine,'  I  wrote  on  the  11th  September, '  how  different 
were  the  feelings  with  which  I  came  to  this  place  two  days  ago  to 
those  of  the  18th  October  1884.  Then  everything  was  hopeful ; 
no  check  had  taken  place ;  I  had  caught  up  ten  days  of  the  time 
estimate  given  to  Lord  Wolseley  for  the  Secretary  of  State  in 
August,  and  I  had  every  faith  that,  if  left  to  myself,  I  could  continue 
to  gain  time  on  the  long  road  still  before  us  to  Khartoum  ;  but  from 
that  day  forward  began  our  delays  and  misfortunes.  Little  by  little 
the  precious  moments  were  allowed  to  drop,  until  the  terrible  words 
"  Too  late  "  were  stamped  for  ever  upon  our  effort.  But  we  must 
not  look  back  ;  there  is  plenty  of  work  to  be  done  forward.  I  go 
to  Dal  to-morrow  to  fix  on  a  site  for  a  small  fort,  which  will  be  our 
advanced  station  towards  Dongola.  .  .  .  The  Dervishes  are  at 
Abu  Fatmeh.  All  the  wretched  kinglets  set  up  by  us  have  fled  : 
our  Intelligence  officers  now  assert  that  the  Mahdi  is  not  dead, 
but  that  he  has  retired  into  a  cave,  from  which  at  the  end  of 
three  months  he  will  come  forth  again.  What  is  certain  is  that 
Mahdiism  is  not  dead  but  is  gaining  ground  daily.  ...  So  the 
Gazette  (for  the  Soudan)  is  out.  I  feel  sure  that  my  absence  from 
it  is  all  for  the  best,  and  I  have  so  many  things  to  be  thankful  for 
that  I  can  truly  rejoice  in  the  good  fortune  of  those  who  have  been 
given  honours  and  rewards. 

'  \2th  of  October. — The  Dervishes  are  becoming  demonstrative 
at  the  Third  Cataract,  and  I  think  that  we  shall  shortly  have  them 
this  side  of  Kaibar.  Think  of  the  row  there  would  have  been  last 
year  in  the  English  papers  if  they  had  been  even  half  so  close  ! 


FORT  BUILDING  AT  AKASHA  313 

Biit  now  the  papers  don't  even  notice  the  fact.    They  '11  goon  be 
playing  another  tune,  I  'm  thinking.' 

Meanwhile  the  problem  before  me  was  not  an  easy  one  to 
meet.  The  railway  from  Wady  Haifa  had  been  completed 
to  Akasha,  ninety  miles.  My  orders  were  that  this  line  was 
to  be  protected  from  attack.  To  hold  these  ninety  mOes  and 
the  base  at  Haifa  I  had  one  weak  battalion  of  British  infantry  ; 
no  cavalry,  no  guns,  no  mounted  infantry  ;  one  weak  battalion 
of  black  troops,  one  ditto  Egyptian  battalion,  and  about  eighty 
Egyptian  camel  corps.  The  Dervish  gathering  at  Dongola 
was  reported  in  numbers  varying  from  eight  to  fifteen  thousand 
men  ;  they  had  many  guns  and  plenty  of  ammimition  ;  the 
capture  of  Khartoum  had  put  aU  the  resources  of  the  arsenal 
there  at  their  disposal.  From  Kaibar  the  rail-head  at  Akasha 
was,  by  desert  route,  not  more  than  seventy  miles.  The 
advanced  portion  of  the  Dervish  army  was,  therefore,  within 
easy  striking  distance  of  our  communications  :  it  could  cut 
the  railway  by  a  thirty-hour  march  on  camels.  The  Nile  was 
an  exceptionally  high  one  this  j'ear  ;  the  desert  wells  were  full. 

I  took  in  these  main  conditions  and  possibihties  in  the  four 
days'  visit  to  Dal.  The  first  thing  to  do  was  to  build  a  fort 
on  the  Nile  twenty  miles  beyond  the  end  of  the  railway  at 
Akasha.  This  fort  I  counted  upon  to  stop  the  first  oncoming 
of  the  Dervishes  when  they  came  down  from  Kaibar.  If  they 
'  sat  down  '  before  my  fort  I  should  have  time  to  gather 
reinforcements  in  the  ground  between  the  fort,  the  head  of  the 
railway,  and  the  angle  made  by  the  Nile  in  its  course  from 
Amara  to  Akasha,  a  rough  and  very  broken  piece  of  desert 
measuring  some  thirty-three  miles  along  the  Nile  shore  and 
about  twenty-four  across  the  desert.  If  thej'^  did  not  sit  down 
before  it,  but  left  it  and  passed  on  into  the  Batn-el-Hager 
(*  the  womb  of  rocks  '),  through  which  our  line  of  railway  ran 
for  sixty  miles,  then  undoubtedly  they  would  do  a  lot  of  damage 
to  the  line,  give  us  plenty  of  hard  work,  and  perhaps  get  even 
as  far  as  Sarras.  But  they  would  never  get  back  again.  They 
might  isolate  my  angle  of  ground  between  rail-head  at  Akasha 
and  the  advanced  post  at  Kosheh,  but  if  I  could  only  get  my 
fort  buUt,  garrisoned,  and  supplied  in  time,  put  a  couple  of 
hundred  mounted  men  into  the  angle,  and  put  another  garrison 
at  rail-head,  I  thought  I  would  be  able  to  play  a  fairly  good 


314     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

game  with  the  ten  thousand  Dervishes  now  in  our  front  at 
Kaibar.  Unfortunately,  time  and  men  were  the  chief  factors 
in  the  problem,  and  both  were  against  me.  The  men  were  far 
down  the  Nile — at  Assouan,  three  hundred  miles,  and  at  Cairo, 
six  hundred  miles  farther.  The  Nile  was  against  me  in  the 
matter  of  time  :  you  could  float  down  the  river  to  Cairo  on  a 
log  of  wood  in  nine  days  ;  you  could  not  come  up  in  a  steamer 
from  Cairo  to  Wady  Haifa  in  twenty  days.  Nor  was  that  the 
only  difficulty.  My  masters  were  all  down-stream  too.  I  might 
propose,  they  disposed.  I  might  ask  for  men,  guns,  horses, 
and  supplies,  in  ten  minutes  by  telegraph  ;  they  would  decide 
in  due  time,  and  time  paid  man}^  dues  on  the  Nile.  Egypt  has 
always  been  the  taxman's  paradise.  It  is  the  same  to-day. 
We  shall  see  presentlj^  how  it  all  worked  out. 

I  set  to  work  at  once  building  the  advance  post  at  a  place 
called  Kosheh  on  the  west  shore  of  the  Nile,  six  miles  south 
of  the  Dal  Cataract,  where  the  river,  making  a  sharp  bend  to 
the  west,  gave  views  up  and  down  two  reaches  for  six  miles  to 
north  and  west.  The  spot  also  marked  the  debouch  of  the 
desert  road  to  ilbsarat  and  Kaibar,  and  it  had  the  further 
advantage  of  having  tolerably  level  and  open  ground  around 
it.  The  jDlan  of  the  fort  was  almost  identical  with  that  of  the 
work  at  Meroe,  which  I  had  blown  up  three  months  earlier. 
It  was  built  entirely  of  Nile  mud,  sun-dried  into  bricks  of  a 
very  durable  nature,  exactly  similar  to  those  which  the  Israel- 
ites had  declared  to  be  the  last  straw  (or  absent  straw)  m  the 
burden  of  their  bondage  some  three  thousand  years  earlier. 
On  the  present  occasion,  my  Nile-mud  brickmakers  were 
Soudanese  blacks,  excellent  fellows,  who  made  mud  pies  by 
the  thousand,  and  piled  them  one  upon  another  at  such  a  rapid 
rate  that  by  the  end  of  October  the  fort  was  already  in  a  for- 
ward state,  and  early  in  November  I  had  half  a  battalion  of 
the  Cameron  Highlanders  encamped  there,  followed  a  fortnight 
later  by  the  remainder  of  the  battalion. 

The  fort  being  finished,  the  black  battalion  (9th  Soudanese) 
were  moved  across  to  the  west  bank  of  the  river,  where  they 
soon  built  themselves  another  mud-pie  fortification  at  that 
side.  These  works  were  only  completed  and  garrisoned  in  the 
nick  of  time,  for  on  the  28th  November  some  eight  or  ten 
thousand  Dervishes  were  on  the  river  at  Amara,  six  miles  from 


MOVES  AND  COUNTERMOVES  315 

Kosheh.  They  had  played  their  game  very  nicely,  holding 
back  at  Kaibar  until  the  last  moment,  and  then  coming  on 
with  a  rush,  covering  fifty  miles  in  two  days.  My  railway 
was  only  a  feeble  thing  :  it  was  just  capable  of  carrying  one 
hundred  and  eighty  men  from  Haifa  to  Akasha  in  one  day  ; 
then  there  was  a  two-days'  march  to  Kosheh,  so  that  to  get  a 
battalion  to  the  point  at  which  I  hoped  to  stop  the  Dervishes 
from  Wady  Haifa  would  take  ten  days. 

On  30th  November  I  had  in  position  at  Kosheh  two  batta- 
lions of  British  infantry,  fifty  British  cavalry,  two  battalions 
Egyptian  infantry,  twelve  artillerymen,  and  one  Krupp  gun ; 
one  company  mounted  mfantrj^  and  eighty  men  of  the  camel 
corps,  with  sixt}'  days'  food,  and  four  hundred  rounds  per  man. 
Two  small  steamers,  one  of  which  was  the  Lotus,  lay  in  the  river 
off  the  fort.  Two  miles  in  rear  of  Kosheh  I  had  an  old  ruined 
Nubian  castle,  Mograka,  put  into  a  state  of  defence — a  zereba 
in  front,  walls  loopholed,  etc.  Into  this  resuscitated  ruin  I 
put  a  weak  battalion  (the  3rd)  of  the  Egyptian  army.^  It  had 
been  neck  and  neck  the  whole  way  between  my  old  enemy  of 
six  months  earlier  in  the  Shukook  Pass,  Abd  el  Majid  Wad  el 
Kailik,  and  myself.  He  knew  a  good  deal  more  of  my  disposi- 
tions and  numbers  than  I  knew  of  his.  Every  native  Nubian 
along  the  Nile  was  friendly  to  him,  and  his  spies  were  among 
us  everywhere.  Nevertheless,  although  I  received  a  good  deal 
of  false  information  as  to  the  Dervish  plans,  I  also  gathered 
sufficient  accurate  intelligence  to  make  out  their  general  pur- 
pose and  intentions.  The  enemy  meant  to  cut  our  railwaj^ 
and  then  attack  Kosheh  and  Akasha.  They  would  hold  us  at 
Kosheh  with  their  main  body,  while  a  flying  column  would 
SAving  round  through  the  desert  and  cut  the  railway  behind 
us.  My  game  was  exactly  the  reverse  of  this.  It  was  to  hold 
them  before  Kosheh,  and  hit  their  raiders  along  the  railway  in 
the  Batn-el-Hager. 

The  ball  opened  on  the  3rd  of  December,  A  raiding  party 
of  one  thousand  men,  with  one  brass  gun  on  a  camel,  suddenly 
appeared  at  Ambigol  Wells  on  the  railway  at  midnight,  and 
tore  up  the  line  for  more  than  a  mile.  At  daybreak  on  the  4th 
they  surrounded  a  smaU  post  which   I  had  established  at 

1  The  British  commanding  officers  were  St.  Leger,  Everett,  Barrow,  Lloyd, 
Hunter,  Bessant,  Legge,  and  de  Lisle. 


316     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Ambigol,  and  brought  their  brass  gun  to  bear  agamst  it. 
Tliere  was  an  incident  connected  with,  this  attack  which 
deserves  record.  The  officer  in  command,  Lieutenant  Anneslej', 
West  Kent  Regiment,  had  kept  his  thirty-five  men  camped  out- 
side the  little  redoubt.  It  was  his  habit  to  go  out  every 
morning  into  the  surrounding  khor  shooting  sand  grouse. 
On  the  morning  of  the  1st  December  he  noticed  that  the  birds 
killed  had  no  food  in  their  crops,  whilst  on  other  days  it  was 
the  rule  to  find  the  bird  well  filled  with,  the  seeds  of  desert 
plants.  Aiinesley,  a  bit  of  a  naturalist,  asked  himself  why 
the  birds  had  not  fed  this  morning — there  mUst  have  been 
something  to  disturb  them.  He  had  been  warned  to  be  ready 
for  a  Dervish  raid.  There  was  a  weU  at  Haumagh,  eight  miles 
out  in  the  desert.  Were  there  Dervishes  about  to  account 
for  the  empty  stomachs  of  the  grouse  ?  Anyway,  he  would 
get  his  men  into  the  redoubt.  A  day  earher  I  had  ordered  a 
reinforcement  of  thirty  rifles  to  Ambigol ;  they  arrived  by 
train  almost  at  the  moment  that  the  Dervishes  began  their 
attack.  The  train  was  a  good  target,  and  was  repeatedly 
struck.  Engine-drivers  and  men  made  for  the  fort,  and  got 
into  it  with  trifling  loss.  The  Dervishes  now  tore  up  the  rail- 
way line  in  the  rear  of  the  train,  as  they  had  already  torn  up 
the  rails  a  mile  in  front  of  it.  Here,  then,  was  the  begimiing 
of  the  test  match  I  had  been  preparing  for  smce  September. 
So  far  the  Dervishes  had  done  weU  :  they  had  demonstrated 
with  five  or  six  thousand  men  at  Kosheh,  and  had  struck  my 
railway  twenty-six  miles  from  Akasha  and  fifty  from  Kosheh 
almost  at  the  same  time.  It  was  now  my  turn  to  play.  Had 
I  even  one  hundred  more  mounted  men  the  game  was  an  easy 
one.  All  through  October  and  November  I  had  urgently 
asked  for  cavalry,  but  to  no  purpose.  Macaulay  wrote  of  the 
siege  of  Derrj-  that  '  even  horse  beans  were  doled  out  with  a 
parsimonious  hand  '  ;  in  my  case  it  was  horsemen  that  were 
so  treated.  Almost  from  the  day  of  my  arrival  at  Wady  Haifa 
I  had  howled  for  cavalry.     In  my  diary  I  find  : — 

'  Representations  made  to  General  Commanding  that  in  order  effec 
tively  to  patrol  roads,  Kosheh  should  be  held  by  five  hundred  men, 
half  of  them  mounted,  and  that  the  railway  and  river  transports 
should  be  made  as  effective  as  possible.' 


A  WEAK  FORCE  TO  RESIST  DERVISHES      317 

I  added  that  an  adyance  of  the  Dervishes  in  force  from  Dongola 
appeared  to  be  certain. 

We  had  now  reached  1st  December.  The  Arabs  had  come 
down  m  force,  but  the  only  horsemen  I  had  received  in  the 
two  months'  interval  had  been  one  hundred  mounted  infantry 
from  Cairo,  who  arrived  in  November,  and  whose  proficiency 
as  horsemen  was  such  that  six  of  their  number  parted  company 
with  their  steeds  in  marching  half  a  mile  to  their  camp. 

On  3rd  December,  when  the  ball  opened,  I  had  then  but  a 
small  force  to  hold  back  an  army  of  Mahdists  flushed  by  their 
recent  victories  at  Khartoum,  well  armed,  and  having  seven 
guns  ;  I  had  also  to  protect  a  line  of  railway  ninety  miles  in 
length  through  the  Batn-el-Hager,  the  most  broken  bit  of 
desert,  save  the  Shukook,  in  all  the  Nile-land,  and  in  the  midst 
of  an  Arab  population  entirely  hostile  to  us.  But  for  that 
elbow  or  angle  made  by  the  Nile  between  Kosheh  and  Akasha, 
giving  literally  elbow-room  beliind  the  advanced  post  at  the 
former  place  and  before  the  rail-head  at  the  latter,  the  job 
must  have  been  an  entirely  impossible  one.  Cairo,  even  for 
a  reinforcement  of  one  battalion,  was  eighteen  days  distant ; 
Assouan,  for  the  same  strength,  was  seven  daj's  away.  As 
things  turned  out,  the  little  fort  at  Kosheh  alone  saved  the 
situation.  It  kept  the  Arabs  far  enough  away  from  the  rail- 
way to  give  the  little  movable  column  which  I  had  scraped 
together,  in  the  elbow  behind  it,  room  to  hit  the  separated,  long- 
distance attacks  which  the  enemy  could  only  make  on  that  most 
vulnerable  tail  to  our  military  position.  It  was  curious  to  me 
to  be  obliged  for  two  months  to  fight  this  fact  with  my  mihtary 
chiefs  in  Assouan  and  Cairo. 

Neither  of  these  excellent  general  ofiicers  had  had  any 
previous  knowledge  of  Arab  strategy,  and  I  owed  it  altogether 
to  the  experience,  gained  six  months  earHer,  of  Arab  methods 
in  the  Shukook  region  that  my  present  Uttle  plan  of  campaign 
was  based  upon  sound  principles.  The  wilder  the  bird,  the  less 
he  likes  going  behind  even  a  mock  barrier.  Kosheh  was  not 
quite  that,  but  it  had  some  laths  painted  to  look  like  iron. 

Our  Intelligence  Department  was  at  Assouan,  and  the  Arab 
leaders  in  Khartoum  had  been  careful  to  keep  that  place 
supplied  with  a  thousand  rumours  of  what  they  meant  to  do 
by  marching  direct  upon  Assouan  from  Berber  and  Abu  Hamad. 


318     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

These  reports,  coming  from  many  directions,  no  doubt  in- 
fluenced tlie  decision  to  keep  back  tlie  bulk  of  the  troops  in 
Egypt,  and  hence  the  poMcy  of  '  doling  out '  supports  to  me 
on  the  exposed  frontier.  I  think  also  it  was  calculated  that 
if  the  worst  came,  and  I  was  cut  off  from  my  base,  a  reHef  could 
be  effected  in  due  course.  Nothing  in  our  modern  wars  had 
sounded  so  well  in  tlie  newspapers  as  the  word  '  Relief.'  It 
is  a  most  valuable  journalistic  asset  ;  but  at  the  time  of  which 
I  am  writing,  to  be  cut  off  from  one's  base  in  war  had  something 
at  least  of  the  aspect  of  defeat,  if  not  of  disgrace  ;  and  I  was 
in  no  mood  to  accept  the  position  if  it  could  possibly  be  helped. 
To  return  to  Ambigol  Wells,  After  breaking  the  railway 
and  burnmg  a  lot  of  the  sleepers  on  the  3rd  December  the 
Arabs  fell  back  agam  into  the  desert,  and  we  were  beginning 
to  repair  the  damage  when  suddenly,  on  the  4th  December, 
they  came  on  us  again  in  force,  attacked  the  post,  and  brought 
their  brass  gun  to  bear  upon  it  from  a  hill  six  hundred  j^ards 
distant.  At  half -past  four  o'clock  news  of  this  attack  was 
brought  to  me  at  x4.kasha  by  Lieutenant  de  Lisle  of  the  mounted 
infantry,  who  had  pluckily  ridden  out  from  the  beleaguered 
post  with  two  men  under  a  very  heavj''  fire.  I  had  already 
drawn  from  my  angle  fifty  mounted  infantry,  seventy  camel 
corps,  and  fifty  hussars  to  Akasha,  and  with  these  and  two 
hundred  and  fifty  infantry  we  started,  on  the  evening  of  the 
5th  December,  from  Akasha,  bringmg  also  a  camel  gun,  and  a 
convoy  of  ninety  camels  with  water,  of  which  de  Lisle  said 
the  garrison  was  running  short.  My  telegraph  wires  were,  of 
course,  cut  on  the  east  side,  but  I  had  already  laid  a  second  line 
to  Wady  Haifa  along  the  west  shore  of  the  Nile,  and  that  was 
intact.  By  midnight  we  had  collected  at  Tanjour  road  three 
hundred  and  fifty  infantry,  two  hundred  camel  and  horse  men, 
and  one  gun  ;  provisions,  water,  and  ammunition  on  camels  ; 
and  with  these  we  started  for  Ambigol  at  1  a.m.  Four  hours' 
steady  marching  brought  us  to  the  khor  or  defile  leading  into 
Ambigol  Wells,  and  as  day  broke  we  were  at  the  fort.  The 
Dervishes  had  fled.  A  few  deserters  came  in,  and  from  them 
we  heard  the  details  of  the  attack.  The  Dervish  force,  about 
nine  hundred  strong,  of  whom  four  hundred  had  rifles,  under 
Es  Zain,  an  old  enemy  of  ours  on  the  Shukook,  had  left  Amara 
on  the  29th,  half  of  them  mounted.     On  the  evening  of  the 


BRISK  WORK  319 

1st  December  they  were  east  of  Ambigol.  The  nights  of 
the  2nd  and  3rd  were  spent  tearing  up  the  railway.  When 
dayhght  came  they  retired  into  the  desert.  On  the  4th  they 
attacked  the  fort  from  all  sides,  hauled  their  gun  on  to  a  high 
hill  five  hundred  yards  away,  and  got  off  some  dozen  shots, 
fired  with  difficulty  because  of  the  continuous  volleys  directed 
at  it  from  the  fort.  We  had  one  man  killed  and  one  wounded  : 
the  Arabs  lost  about  twenty  all  told.  I  left  a  gun  and  a  com- 
pany of  the  Berks  Regiment  at  Ambigol,  and  we  marched  back 
to  Akasha,  where  we  arrived  at  sunset,  having  covered  over 
fifty  miles  in  twenty-four  hours,  thirty  miles  of  it  on  foot. 

In  less  than  a  week  we  had  the  railway'  repaired,  and  trains 
running  through  from  Haifa  to  Akasha  again.  The  work  of 
that  week  never  found  outside  record  or  acknowledgment,  but 
I  owe  it  to  the  brave  fellows  who  freely  gave  me  their  toil  and 
sweat  to  say  something  about  it  even  now  at  this  distance  of 
time.  We  had  literaUj'-  to  do  the  work  of  one  hundred  men  witli 
less  than  fifty.  Watched  from  every  side,  and  with  seven  or 
eight  thousand  Arabs  in  front  and  on  our  flanks  for  fifty  miles, 
we  held  our  own  from  Kosheh  to  Ambigol,  repaired  every 
damage  as  it  occurred,  and  gave  back  shot  for  shot  on  both 
sides  of  the  Nile  ;  for  the  Dervishes  had  now  put  two  thousand 
men  on  the  west  bank,  and  reinforcements  were  daily  arriving 
to  them  from  Dongola  east  and  west.  Es  Zain  was  soon  astir 
again  :  this  time  he  swooped  round  Kosheh  with  three  thousand 
men  at  night  through  the  hills,  and  struck  at  Mograka  and 
Firket,  where  I  had  some  Egj-ptian  troops,  I  got  word  at 
Akasha  late  in  the  evening  that  he  was  on  the  swoop  at  Firket, 
and  marched  at  sunrise  next  morning  with  five  hundred  men, 
half  West  Kent  and  half  Berkshire  Regiments,  mounted  men, 
and  three  guns,  by  the  desert  road  to  Firket ;  but  Es  Zain  and 
his  merry  men  again  vanished  into  the  hills. 

I  left  the  column  at  Firket  and  rode  on  to  Kosheh — aU  was 
right  there.  The  Arabs  were  gettmg  more  active  every  day. 
I  ran  another  gun  and  nine  camel-loads  of  gun  ammunition 
into  the  fort,  got  the  wires  going  again,  reinforced  Mograka 
with  a  company  of  the  West  Kent  and  one  gun,  and  rejoined 
the  flying  column  at  midnight  at  Firket — another  long  day. 

As  more  troops  were  now  coming  up  the  Nile  from  Egypt  I 
made  my  headquarters  at  Firket.     It  was  a  good  point  at  which 


320    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

to  concentrate  the  force  now  moving  slowly  up  from  Cairo, 
and  meanwhile  I  could  keep  an  eye  on  Kosheh  and  Mograka, 
and  another  on  the  desert  route  to  Akasha  and  rail-head. 
Of  course,  the  reports  of  alarms  and  excursions  were  incessant. 
Some  of  them  were  very  funny.  One  evening  a  strong  patrol 
of  moimted  mfantry  returned  to  Firket  after  dark  reporting 
that  they  had  found  the  fort  of  Mograka  surrounded  by 
Dervishes,  whose  banners  were  planted  across  the  track  leading 
from  Firket  to  that  post.  They  had  engaged  the  Dervishes 
at  close  range  ;  the  fire  was  hotly  returned  ;  then  the  Arabs 
retreated,  and  the  patrol  had  fallen  back  on  Firket  without 
loss.  That  of  the  enemy  must  have  been  very  heavy.  I 
marched  at  daybreak  next  morning  for  Mograka.  There  was 
no  trace  of  any  enemy  ;  but  the  commandant  met  me  in  front 
of  his  fort  to  report  that  he  had  been  heavily  attacked  on  the 
preceding  evening  by  a  large  force  of  Arabs,  that  he  had 
repulsed  the  attack  with  heavy  loss  to  the  assailants,  and  that 
his  garrison  had  not  suffered.  I  had  many  doubts  the  evening 
before  about  this  mysterious  Arab  attack  on  Mograka,  the 
banners,  and  the  rest  of  the  patrol  story  ;  the  commandant's 
account  did  not  dispel  them.  What  had  really  happened  was 
that  the  mounted  infantry  had  volleyed  at  the  Egjrptian  soldiers 
outside  their  fort  while  engaged  in  the  dusk  upon  certain  evening 
duties  and  ablutions,  and  the  Egyptians  in  the  fort  had  volleyed 
back  at  the  patrol,  each  defeating  the  other,  happily  without 
wound  or  graze  on  either  side. 

Ten  more  days  of  firing,  scouting,  marching,  moving  convoys 
of  stores  from  Akasha  forward,  sending  sick  and  wounded  down, 
and  passing  small  reinforcements  up,  now  went  on  ;  and  at  last 
there  seemed  a  prospect  of  bringing  matters  to  a  conclusion 
before  Kosheh.  That  little  post  did  its  work  splendidly.  On 
16th  December  two  companies  of  the  Camerons  made  a  sortie 
at  daybreak  against  the  Arabs,  who  were  daily  creeping  nearer 
the  fort,  finding  cover  along  the  shore  as  the  waters  of  the  Nile 
fell.  Fourteen  Dervishes  were  surprised  and  bayoneted  in 
the  rocks. 

The  village  of  Absari,  to  the  south  of  Kosheh,  was  found  loop- 
holed  and  garrisoned.  The  Arabs  came  out  from  camp  at 
Giimiss  in  large  numbers,  and  the  Camerons  fell  back  upon  the 
guns  of  the  fort,  which  got  many  shots  into  the  Arab  groups. 


A  RECONNAISSANCE  321 

This  reconnaissance  was  to  prove  of  great  value  to  us  later  on, 
for  it  revealed  the  Arab  strength  and  position  and  intentions 
in  case  of  attack  along  the  river.  Unfortunately,  it  was 
attended  with  loss.  Major  Chalmers  and  Lieutenant  Cameron 
and  four  rank  and  file  were  wounded — Lieutenant  Cameron 
mortally.  Major  Hunter  of  the  9th  Battalion  was  also  danger- 
ously wounded.  A  few  days  later  I  tried  another  reconnais- 
sance to  discover  what  the  Arabs  would  do  if  we  attacked  them 
from  the  broken  and  high  ground  lying  a  mile  back  from  the 
river.  About  one  hundred  mounted  men  were  to  circle  round 
behind  the  hills  from  Mograka  and  endeavour  to  approach 
Ginniss  from  the  east.  It  was  intensely  interesting  to  watch 
the  effect  this  movement  had  upon  the  Dervish  camps  for  three 
miles  south  of  Kosheh.  First  I  saw  an  Arab  rushing  madly 
out  of  the  broken  ground  towards  Ginniss  ;  he  had  evidently 
caught  sight  of  the  cavalry  movement  in  the  hills,  and  was 
racing  to  give  the  alarm.  I  stood  with  watch  in  hand  noting 
the  exact  time  taken.  First  fifty  mounted  men  rode  out  at 
full  gallop  from  the  shore  near  Ginniss  ;  then  band  after  band 
of  Dervishes  passed  streaming  into  the  khors  leading  up  to 
the  higher  ridges.  Wliat  I  wanted  to  find  out  was  the  exact 
time  it  would  take  the  Arabs  to  gain  a  high  dominating  ridge 
which  rose  round  the  tangle  of  broken  ground  about  three  or 
four  miles  from  Kosheh,  and  one  or  two  from  Ginniss.  I  got 
the  time  to  a  second  :  twenty  minutes  after  the  Arab  vidette 
had  given  the  first  alarm  I  saw  the  heads  and  spears  of  many 
Dervishes  on  the  skyline  of  the  high  ridge.  Another  body  of 
mounted  men,  followed  by  footmen,  moved  obliquely  as 
though  to  intercept  our  men,  who  were  not  visible  to  us,  but 
whose  general  line  of  movement  through  the  hills  we  could  tell 
by  the  gallopings  and  racings  of  the  Arabs. 

Colonel  Barrow's  orders  were  not  to  commit  the  reconnais- 
sance to  close  quarters,  but  to  fall  back  on  Mograka,  passing 
the  front  of  Kosheh,  and  retiring  fighting.  I  sent  out  two 
companies  of  Camerons  to  threaten  the  Dervish  flank.  The 
Arab  mounted  men,  followed  by  a  couple  of  hundred  of  their 
foot,  came  on  weU.  Barrow  fell  back  across  the  front  face 
of  the  fort.  A  wide  khor  opened  into  the  hills  directly  in 
front  of  the  fort,  and  across  this  our  men  passed,  closely 
followed  by  the  Arabs.     One  chief  in  particular  pressed  the 

X 


322     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

pursuit  very  closely.  He  was  shot  near  the  khor.  His  horse 
galloped  among  our  cavalry  and  was  taken.  This  man  proved 
to  be  the  celebrated  Kordofan  Emir,  Osman  el  Azreck,  the  best 
fighting  leader  in  the  Dervish  army.  The  firing  ceased  sud- 
denly, and  presently  we  saw  a  party  of  Dervishes  passing  back 
over  the  khor,  bearing  the  body  of  El  Azreck  on  their  shoulders. 

A  few  days  later  the  last  of  the  reinforcements  from  Cairo 
reached  Firket,  and  with  them  came  Sir  Frederick  Stevenson, 
the  commander-in-chief.  General  Grenfell,  and  large  staffs.  I 
had  everything  ready  for  them — food,  ammunition,  and  plan 
of  attack  upon  the  Arabs  at  Ginniss.  The  fort  at  Kosheh  had 
done  its  work.  We  were  all  tired  of  the  long-drawn-out  task 
which  the  delays  and  the  lack  of  transport  on  the  Nile  had 
imposed  upon  us.  For  thirtj''  days  our  little  garrison  in  the 
angle  had  held  some  eight  thousand  Arabs,  and  preserved  the 
railway  to  Wady  Haifa. 

On  the  29th  December  a  force  of  four  thousand  men  was 
concentrated  in  the  palm  groves  between  Kosheh  and  Mograka, 
ready  to  move  against  the  Arabs  next  morning.  I  suppose  I 
ought  to  have  been  satisfied,  but  somehow  I  wasn't.  As  old 
people  may  live  too  long  for  younger  men,  so  yoimger  men 
may  do  too  weU  for  older  people.  That,  at  least,  was  what 
I  thought ;  but  it  doesn't  matter  now.  One  most  unlooked- 
for  message  of  indirect  approval  of  our  work  came  to  me  about 
Christmas  Day,  when  I  bivouacked  on  the  platform  of  an  old 
sakeyeh  wheel  at  Firket.  It  was  a  letter  from  our  military 
attache  at  Berlin  telling  of  an  interview  he  had  just  had  with 
the  great  Von  Moltke,  who  sent  for  him  to  discuss  the  situation 
on  the  Nile  to  the  south  of  Wady  Haifa. 

'  I  do  not  see  how  it  will  be  possible  for  your  small  force  at  and 
south  of  Wady  Haifa  to  prevent  the  Arabs  enveloping  your  positions, 
completely  destroying  the  railway,  and  coming  in  force  to  Wady 
Haifa.     Your  line  is  far  too  long  and  your  force  much  too  small.' 

General  Stevenson  held  a  meeting  of  officers  that  day  near 
Mograka,  and  I  was  asked  to  state  my  idea  of  the  next  day's 
movements.  I  gave  it,  based  altogether  upon  the  Arab  moves 
on  the  22nd.  If  my  brigade  started  from  Kosheh  one  hour  and 
a  half  before  daybreak,  I  thought  that  it  would  be  possible  to 
gain  the  high  ridge  east  of  Ginniss  at  or  near  dawn.     If  that 


GINNISS— THE  PRELIMINARIES  323 

point  was  reached  before  the  Arabs  got  to  it  from  Ginniss,  we 
held  them  in  the  hoUow  of  our  hands  ;  if  not,  they  had  every 
chance  of  holding  us.  The  ground  between  us  and  the  ridge 
was  extremely  broken  and  intersected  with  sudden  ravines, 
but  I  thought  I  could  take  my  three  battalions  there  before 
daylight  revealed  our  march  to  the  Dervishes.  I  was  told  to 
do  as  I  liked. 

That  evening  I  went  out  to  the  desert  clear  of  Kosheh,  and 
put  two  biggish  stones  to  mark  the  front  of  an  infantry  battalion 
standing  in  quarter  column.  Thirty  or  forty  yards  behind 
the  left-hand  one  of  the  two  stones  I  placed  a  third  and  fourth 
stone,  laid  very  carefully  in  a  line  bearing  over  the  centre  of 
the  saw-back  ridge,  and  full  on  the  flat  top  of  Gebel  Abri, 
a  mountain  about  eight  miles  distant  to  the  south.  I  said 
nothing  to  anybody,  but  ordered  my  three  battalions  and  six 
camel  guns  to  parade  next  morning.  When  night  had  quite 
fallen  I  went  out  to  my  stones  again,  and  saw  that  the  top 
of  G«bel  Abri  was  quite  discernible  over  the  centre  of  the  saw- 
back  ridge  in  the  desert,  east  of  Ginniss. 

Before  dawn  I  '  dressed '  the  Berkshire  Battalion  in 
quarter  column  squarely  upon  these  stones.  Two  battalions, 
the  West  Kent  and  Durhams,  fell  in  with  their  leadmg  com- 
panies in  line,  on  the  rear  company  of  the  Berks,  one  to  right 
and  the  other  to  left  of  that  battahon.  This  formation 
gave  three  sides  of  a  hollow  square.  Into  that  hollow  I  put 
the  six  Egyptian  camel  guns,  ambulance  stretchers,  spare 
ammunition,  water  camels,  etc.,  and  I  closed  the  rear  face  of 
the  hollow  with  a  scratch  battalion  of  six  companies,  made  up 
of  two  companies  from  the  three  battalions.  This  compact 
force  was  led  by  a  sergeant  of  the  Berks  Regiment.  On  the 
left  of  the  leading  company,  and  behind  this  sergeant,  I  mj^self 
rode,  to  see  that  he  led  straight  upon  Gebel  Abri.  When 
everything  was  ready  it  was  fifteen  minutes  to  five  ;  no  moon  ; 
a  misty,  grey  gloom  was  over  the  desert,  but  the  dark  top  of 
Gebel  Abri  showed  distinctly  above  the  horizon  nearly  due 
south.  I  sent  back  to  the  general,  who,  with  his  second  brigade 
of  British  and  Egyptian  troops,  was  about  six  liundred  yards 
in  rear,  that  I  was  quite  ready  to  advance.  A  message  was 
returned  asking  me  to  wait,  as  the  second  brigade  was  not  yet 
ready  ;   but  as  I  had  very  closely  timed  the  march  to  be  done 


324     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

with  the  hour  of  dawn,  I  sent  back  again  to  say  that  it  was 
imperatively  necessary  that  my  brigade  should  start  at  5  a.m.  ; 
and  when  that  hour  came,  we  moved  forward.  The  line  of 
march  laid  on  Gebel  Abri  soon  began  to  ascend  from  the  lower 
levels  near  the  river  into  the  rocky  ridges  lying  south  of  Ginniss 
and  Amara.  We  were  passing  obliquely  along  the  flank  posi- 
tions held  by  the  Dervishes  on  the  river  south  of  Kosheh, 
diverging  farther  awaj^  from  the  Nile  as  we  proceeded.  We 
could  see  the  enemy's  fires  in  the  palm  groves  and  scattered 
mud  houses  by  the  shore,  but  beyond  the  barking  of  dogs 
to  the  right  as  we  proceeded  there  was  nothing  as  yet  to  indi- 
cate that  the  Arabs  were  aware  of  our  movements.  For  quite 
an  hour  the  march  went  on  through  very  rough  and  broken 
ground.  At  times  a  ravine  or  khor  of  unusual  steepness  had 
to  be  crossed,  in  passing  which  the  guiding  cone  of  Gebel  Abri 
disappeared  from  view  ;  but  in  these  cases  I  took  a  star  in  the 
southern  heavens  in  the  line  of  the  hill-top,  and  as  we  ascended 
on  an  opposite  side  of  the  ravine  Gebel  Abri  was  again  in  sight. 
After  about  an  hour's  marching  Hght  began  to  show  in  the 
east,  and  one  was  able  to  see  something  of  the  surrounding 
desert,  and  the  line  of  palms  and  houses  along  the  river  to  our 
right.  We  were  now  abreast  of  Ginniss,  about  three-quarters 
of  a  mile  from  it.  In  our  front,  five  or  six  hundred  yards 
ahead,  the  razor-back  ridge,  to  gam  which  was  the  entire  object 
of  the  movement,  was  becoming  more  plainly  visible  in  the 
increasing  light.  So  far  no  shot,  sound,  or  sign  of  movement 
had  come  from  the  Arabs.  During  the  next  quarter  of  a  mile 
I  made  the  battahons  on  the  right  and  left  of  the  Berkshires 
incline  outwards  from  that  battahon,  which  still  kept  its  even 
pace  to  the  front.  When  the  flank  battahons  reached  deploy- 
ing distance  they  resumed  the  old  direction  again.  The 
brigade  was  then  in  line  of  battalion  columns  at  deploying 
distance,  the  guns,  camels,  etc.,  being  in  rear  of  the  centre 
and  guiding  battahon,  and  behind  them  came  the  reserve 
battahon.  The  hght  grew  rapidly,  and  by  the  time  we  reached 
the  foot  of  the  razor-back  all  the  surrounding  black  and  grey 
rocks  and  ravines  were  fully  visible.  Still  no  enemy  showed 
anywhere,  and  the  silence  was  still  unbroken  except  by  our 
footsteps  on  the  rocky  surface.  I  rode  on  to  the  top  of  the 
centre  of  the  razor-back. 


THE  ACTION  OF  GINNISS  325 

There  the  scene  changed  in  an  instant.  The  whole  desert 
at  the  farther  side  of  the  ridge  was  outlaid  before  us  :  the  long 
slopes  leading  down  to  the  wide  river,  which  stretched  west- 
ward, dotted  with  the  dark  isles  of  the  Amara  rapids  ;  the 
endless  Libyan  desert  at  the  farther  side  ;  the  line  of  scattered 
palm  groves  and  houses  on  the  nearer  shore,  from  which  many 
groups  of  Arab  horsemen  and  foot  spearmen  were  streaming 
into  the  rocks  and  khors  that  lay  immediately  in  our  front. 

For  a  moment  I  thought  that  we  had  won  the  race  for  the 
ridge  by  a  mile  ;  but  it  was  not  so — we  had  only  won  it  by  a 
few  hundred  yards  ;  for  as  soon  as  some  more  figures  of  our 
people  showed  over  the  top,  fire  opened  along  a  front  of  eight 
hundred  or  a  thousand  yards  from  numerous  concealed  enemies, 
some  of  whom  were  within  two  hundred  paces  of  the  height 
on  which  we  stood.  These  riflemen  were  the  leading  scouts 
of  the  advancing  Arab  army,  making  for  the  ridge.  I  ordered 
the  three  battalions  to  line  the  ridge,  for  the  sun  was  now  rising 
at  our  backs,  making  things  very  visible  to  people  on  the 
lower  ground  to  the  west.  The  lower  khors  in  our  front  were 
quickly  filling  with  Arabs  from  the  palm  groves.  The  Berk- 
shires  got  first  into  position  on  the  crest,  and  while  the  two 
flank  battalions  were  coming  up  I  had  time  to  look  round  and 
see  where  our  supporting  brigade  was. 

It  was  a  long  way  behind,  quite  two  miles,  and  it  appeared 
to  be  halted,  facing  the  village  of  Absari.  The  regiment  of 
cavalry,  which  had  orders  to  move  on  the  left  of  my  brigade, 
well  out  in  the  desert,  was  also  visible  about  a  mile  to  the  south- 
east. It  was  quite  evident  that  in  a  few  minutes  more  I  should 
have  the  entire  Arab  force  on  this  bank  of  the  river  in  our 
immediate  front.  The  whole  scene,  as  the  sun  came  up, 
presented  a  very  striking  spectacle.  For  a  few  minutes  the 
fire  in  our  front  went  on,  and  the  bullets  came  flying  across  the 
top  of  the  ridge  fast  and  thick,  so  far  without  reply.  But  it  was 
now  our  turn  to  begin.  The  Berkshires  opened  the  baU,  and  a 
hail  of  bullets  soon  swept  the  edges  of  the  ravines  in  our  front. 
The  Durhams  next  took  up  the  fire,  and  the  West  Kent  followed, 
but  before  the  infantry  were  all  in  line  I  called  up  the  Egyptian 
camel  Kxupp  battery  under  Colonel  Woodhouse.  Above  the 
edges  of  a  khor  about  a  thousand  yards  in  our  front  a  large 
force  of  Arabs  was  gathering :  we  could  see  spear  heads  and 


326     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

banners  showing.  One  flag,  particularly  noticeable  by  its  wide 
folds,  was  carried  by  a  man  on  horseback.  Colonel  Woodhouse 
laid  his  first  gun  on  this  figure  with  aim  so  good  that  man, 
horse,  and  flag  disappeared  from  sight  almost  simultaneously 
with  the  report  of  the  Httle  gun.  For  a  quarter  of  an  hour 
the  fire  was  hammer  and  tongs  on  both  sides.  When  the 
Berkshires  first  reached  the  hill  crest  they  were  met  by  so 
strong  a  sweep  of  bullets  that  three  or  four  men  fell  at  once. 
I  therefore  ordered  the  battalion  to  lie  down  on  the  inner  slope 
and  fire  over  the  ridge.  The  other  battalions  did  the  same 
as  they  came  up  to  the  crest,  and  in  a  few  moments  a  hail  of 
bullets  was  sweeping  down  the  outer  slopes  and  across  the 
khors  and  ravines,  into  which  the  spearmen  and  their  leaders 
were  now  rapidly  gathering  from  the  lower  ground.  Our 
officers,  mounted  and  on  foot,  did  not  dismount  nor  take  cover, 
for  at  that  date  it  had  not  become  the  order  or  the  habit  to 
do  so. 

One  could  now  judge  what  the  result  would  have  been  to  us 
had  the  Arabs  got  possession  of  this  ridge  before  us — and  we 
had  only  saved  it  by  a  few  minutes.  It  had  been  neck  and 
neck.  If  Gebel  Abri  had  not  been  where  it  was,  I  don't  think 
it  could  have  been  done.  Finding  that  they  could  not  face  a 
front  attack  upon  the  ridge,  the  spearmen  now  began  to  move 
towards  our  left,  keeping  within  the  shelter  of  several  khors, 
whose  existence  we  could  only  tell  by  the  spear  heads  and 
banners  showing  at  intervals  above  the  edges.  To  check  this 
movement  to  the  flank  I  sent  the  Egyptian  camel  corps  out 
beyond  the  left  of  our  line,  and  moved  the  reserve  battalion 
to  reinforce  that  flank. 

I  have  already  mentioned  the  name  of  Said  Redwan  of 
Kordofan,  a  lieutenant  in  the  camel  corps.  No  bolder  or  finer 
man  ever  carried  sword  than  that  officer.  He  had  now  dis- 
mounted his  men,  tied  down  the  camels,  and  the  men  were 
firing  away  down  the  khors  in  their  front.  Suddenly  a  group 
of  Dervishes  rushed  from  some  rocks  nearer  to  our  line  and 
began  stabbing  the  camels.  We  could  not  fire  at  them,  because 
the  men  of  the  camel  corps  were  in  the  line  of  fire  just  beyond 
their  camels.  I  shouted  to  the  camel-men  to  clear  off  to  the 
left  and  leave  us  a  clear  field  of  fire  ;  they  did  so,  all  except 
Said,  who,  seeing  the  Dervishes  hacking  at  his  camels,  charged 


CT.OSE  OF  THE  BATTLE  327 

singly  into  their  midst,  and  began  to  hew  and  hack  at  them 
right  and  left.  It  was  a  strange  sight,  such  a  one  as  must 
have  been  frequently  seen  in  Crusader  times  ;  and  to  make  it 
still  more  of  mediaeval  fashion,  the  Dervish  swords  were  of 
the  old  straight,  double-edged  blade  and  two-handed  type, 
precisely  such  as  Sir  Walter  Scott's  Nubian  soldiers  in  the 
Talisman  might  have  carried.  On  the  present  occasion  the 
Dervish  swords  had  the  best  of  it,  and  Said  Redwan  got  cut 
in  several  places,  and  went  down  among  his  camels  ;  but  this 
temporary  fall  saved  his  life,  for  his  assailants  were  picked  off 
by  our  men  once  the  ground  was  clear.  A  few  other  fanatics 
now  appeared  from  the  rocks,  hopping  in  the  strangest  fashion 
as  they  made  straight  for  our  men.  One  or  two  of  them  got 
so  close  to  the  line  before  they  fell  that  one  could  see  every 
feature  of  their  faces  distorted  with  the  delirium  of  fanatical 
enthusiasm,  the  lips  moving  in  prayer,  the  eyes  rolling,  their 
swords  raised  in  both  hands,  twirling  in  a  ceaseless  circle  above 
their  heads.  I  could  not  discern  any  sign  of  rage  in  the  ex- 
pression of  their  faces ;  it  seemed  to  be  the  ecstasy  of  self- 
martyrdom.  The  battle  was  soon  over ;  we  had  had  it  all 
to  ourselves. 

I  would  now  change  front  to  the  right  and  move  down  the 
slopes  upon  the  Arab  camps  in  and  behind  Ginniss.  So, 
sending  word  to  the  generals  and  the  Second  Brigade,  who  were 
still  more  than  a  mile  behind  us,  and  sending  an  officer  also  to 
inform  the  cavalry  on  our  left,  another  mile  to  the  east,  that  I 
was  about  to  move  upon  the  river,  I  wheeled  the  line  the 
eighth  of  a  circle  on  its  right,  and,  picking  up  our  wounded 
men,  began  our  march  on  Ginniss.  I  added  to  my  message 
to  the  colonel  of  the  cavalry  that,  so  far  as  I  could  see,  the 
Arabs  were  retreating  along  the  Nile  shore  towards  Atab  ;  that 
he  should  conform  to  my  movement,  and  thus  place  his  regi- 
ment upon  the  Une  of  the  retreating  enemy.  Then  we  went 
straight  for  Ginniss.  In  half  an  hour  we  were  there.  The 
Arabs  had  fled  along  the  palm  patches  and  river  shore  beyond 
Atab,  leaving  two  guns,  fourteen  standards,  some  wounded, 
and  about  two  thousand  medgideah  dollars  in  our  hands.  The 
cavalry  missed  their  chance.  Although  they  were  full  on  the 
flank  of  the  retreating  Dervishes,  their  commanding  officer 
drew  up  his  men  at  Atab  and  began  firing  at  the  fugitives. 


328     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

Twenty  minutes  after  we  reached  Ginniss,  the  Second  Brigade 
came  up,  with  the  generals  and  their  respective  staffs.  I  loaded 
two  Dervish  donkeys  with  the  Arab  standards,  took  them  to 
the  generals,  and  presented  them.  That  was  the  end  of  the 
battle  of  Ginniss.  We  lost  only  one  officer  killed — Lieutenant 
Soltau  ot  the  Berkshire  Regiment.  He  was  shot  through  the 
head  a  minute  or  two  after  we  gained  the  razor-back  ridge. 
He  was  a  splendid  specimen  of  youthful  manhood  as  he  stood 
behind  the  men  of  his  company,  who  were  lying  against  the 
top  of  the  ridge  ;  nor  did  he  look  one  whit  less  splendid  when, 
a  moment  later,  he  lay  stretched  on  his  back  on  the  rocky 
desert  with  his  sword  still  held  firm  in  his  hand.  We  buried 
him  in  the  desert  outside  Ginniss.  A  touching  thmg  happened 
at  that  simple  funeral.  Soltau  had  a  pet  dog,  which  he  took 
with  him  wherever  he  went.  It  was  a  tiny  thing,  of  the  toy 
spaniel  type,  but,  smaU  as  that  animal  was,  it  had  the  biggest 
heart  of  any  dog  I  had  ever  seen.  This  was  what  happened. 
The  body  of  the  dead  officer  was  carried  on  a  stretcher  behind 
the  Berkshire  Regiment  as  we  marched  from  the  ridge,  and 
the  stretcher,  covered  by  a  Union  Jack,  was  put  in  a  tent 
for  a  couple  of  hours  while  a  grave  was  being  dug  in  the  desert. 
When  all  was  ready,  we  followed  the  body  to  its  last  rest. 
The  stretcher  was  laid  on  the  ground  a  few  feet  from  the  grave, 
and  the  Union  Jack  Hfted.  The  body,  still  in  uniform,  was 
then  raised  by  four  men  and  lowered  into  the  grave  ;  but, 
cowering  on  one  side  of  the  blood-stained  stretcher,  in  smaller 
shape  than  ever  before,  was  the  tiny  dog.  I  have  never 
forgotten  the  way  in  which  that  black  atom  dragged  itself, 
crouching,  from  the  stretcher  along  the  few  feet  of  sand  to 
the  edge  of  the  pit,  and  lay  there  with  its  head  hanging 
down  into  the  grave.  When  some  one  Hfted  it  away,  it  hung 
like  a  Httle  dead  thing,  a  sight  sufficient  to  make  strong  men 
turn  aside. 


CHAPTER  XIX 

Back  to  Wady  Haifa.     Letters.      Sickness  among  the  troops.     Leaving  the 
Soudan.    Assouan.    Home  on  sick  leave.    Half-pay  in  Brittany.    K.C.B. 

The  failure  of  the  cavalry  in  pursuit,  following  the  fight  at 
Ginniss,  imposed  extra  work  upon  the  infantry  brigade.  We 
marched  to  Amara  in  the  afternoon,  and  bivouacked  in  a  palm- 
grove  by  the  river.  In  the  middle  of  the  night  the  sound  of 
heavy  firing  came  from  the  direction  of  Kosheh,  and  was  con- 
tinued at  short  intervals  until  daybreak.  Of  course  I  could  not 
suppose  that  it  arose  from  any  real  Dervish  attack,  and  could 
only  attribute  it  to  one  of  those  night  alarms  or  panics  of  which 
the  Zulu  War  of  1879  had  given  so  many  examples.  The 
volleys  of  musketry  were  undoubtedly  fired  by  trained  troops  ; 
but,  as  the  men  of  my  two  battalions  had  had  a  very  heavy 
day's  work,  I  did  not  disturb  their  bivouac. 

A  few  minutes  later,  a  mounted  officer  appeared  from  the 
cavalry  commander,  who  was  camped  with  his  regiment  at 
Atab,  two  miles  nearer  Kosheh.  I  had  left  one  infantry 
battalion  at  the  same  place  the  previous  evenmg.  The  officer 
brought  an  urgent  demand  for  assistance  :  the  firing,  he  said, 
proceeded  from  Kosheh,  four  miles  farther  to  the  rear,  I  sent 
back  answer  that  it  was  quite  impossible  that  there  could  be 
any  valid  reason  for  this  musketry  outbreak  at  Kosheh  ;  that 
the  colonel  should  send  an  officer's  patrol  there  to  discover 
what  the  firing  meant.  An  hour  or  two  later  the  same  officer, 
this  time  on  a  camel,  appeared  ;  and  again  I  had  to  get  up  from 
my  blankets.  It  was  the  same  appUcation  for  assistance 
repeated.  Kosheh  was  firing  volleys  at  mtervals.  This  time 
I  felt  annoyed  ;  but  the  humour  of  the  situation  was  too  much 
for  other  feelings,  so  I  got  some  writing  materials,  and  wrote 
to  the  officer  commanding  cavalry  : — 

'  There  can  be  no  cause  at  Kosheh  for  this  firing.  A  few  stragglers 
may  still  be  near  that  place.     Your  own  position  at  Atab  is  abso- 

329 


330     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

lutely  secure.  You  have  an  infantry  battalion  immediately  on  your 
right,  two  other  infantry  battaUons  are  on  your  left  at  Ginniss ; 
two  batteries  of  artillery,  two  battalions  of  the  Egyptian  army, 
and  the  whole  of  the  headquarter  staffs  are  also  there  ;  while  there 
is  an  unfordable  river  behind  you  and  an  impassable  desert  in  your 
front.     You  should  let  your  men  lie  down  and  rest.' 

I  was  not  disturbed  again,  and  shortly  after  daybreak  news 
came  that  the  firing  had  been  caused  by  the  presence  of  a  few 
Dervishes  in  a  mud  hut  near  Kosheh,  which  the  Second  Brigade 
was  supposed  to  have  captured  the  previous  morning,  after  a 
heavy  bombardment,  when  they  first  advanced  from  Kosheh. 
The  volleys  were  fired  by  an  Egyptian  battalion  to  prevent 
these  six  Dervishes  getting  out  !  Meanwhile  the  Dervishes 
had  fled  south  as  fast  as  Arab  legs  could  go.  All  their  Nuggers 
had  hoisted  sail,  and  were  already  past  the  bend  of  the  Nile  at 
Sakt-el-Abd.  I  got  a  report  from  the  cavalry  commander 
after  dark  on  the  31st  that  they  had  reconnoitred  to  Quake, 
which  was  found  deserted  ;  that  the  Arab  Nuggers,  with  arms, 
wounded,  etc.,  on  board,  were  reported  to  be  thirty  miles  south 
of  Quake,  and  that  he  had  not  deemed  it  advisable  to  pursue 
them.  I  knew  that  part  of  the  Nile  well,  for  I  had  been  over 
it  frequently  a  year  earlier.  The  currents  ran  swift  in  many 
places.  There  had  been  little  wind  that  day,  and  I  believed 
it  was  still  possible,  notwithstanding  lost  opportunities,  to 
capture  some,  if  not  all,  of  the  Dervish  fleet. 

Accordingly,  at  daylight  on  New  Year's  Day,  having  been 
supplied  with  two  days'  rations,  a  couple  of  hundred  mounted 
men,  horses,  and  camels,  under  Major  Smith-Dorrien  of  the 
Egyptian  army,  started  from  Abri,  the  old  Lotus,  stem-wheeler, 
steaming  up-stream  with  them. 

I  rode  from  Abri  to  the  south,  through  Mahass  and  Sukkote. 
At  Loarda  I  found  the  cavalry  halted,  and  the  Lotus  beached, 
repairing  damage  from  a  sunken  rock.  At  2  p.m.  she  was 
under  weigh  again  :  at  sunset  I  came  up  with  the  cavalry, 
halted  near  Kurtingo.  One  Nugger  had  a  Iready  been  captured, 
and  others  were  only  ten  miles  ahead.  There  was  little  wind  : 
the  Arabs  were  tracking.  The  capture  of  the  boats  was  now 
assured.  I  sent  the  cavalry  on  to  Kosheh.  When  night  fell  I 
found  myself,  with  a  single  Egyptian  orderly,  no  food,  forage, 
or  blankets,  my  little  Arab  pony  dead-tired,  at  a  spot  some  miles 


MESSAGE  FROM  THE  LIEUTENANT-GENERAL      331 

to  the  south  of  Eroe,  where  dwelt  Ab-der-Rahman,  the  leadmg 
Arab  sheikh  in  Sukkote.  I  had  known  this  man  before  ;  of 
course,  he  had  played  fast  and  loose  with  us,  as  he  was  bound 
to  do,  living  between  the  upper  and  the  lower  mill-stones  on  the 
frontier  ;  but  the  sun  was  now  on  our  side  of  the  palm-trees, 
and  Ab-der-Rahman  professed  warm  friendship  for  us.  I  sent 
the  orderly  to  ask  a  night's  hospitality  from  this  sheikh. 

Ab-der-Rahman  was  profuse  in  his  hospitaUty.  His  guest- 
house was  at  my  service,  and  I  had  good  food  and  excellent 
tea  in  a  silver  teapot  for  my  supper.  The  Dervishes  had  passed 
his  house  on  the  30th  at  one  o'clock  in  full  flight  for  Dongola. 
There  were  many  wounded  put  into  Nuggers,  some  of  the 
leadmg  Emirs  being  among  them. 

Next  morning  (the  2nd)  I  was  able  to  report  the  capture 
of  nine  Nuggers,  arms,  clothing,  and  grain.  I  got  back  to 
Quake  on  the  3rd,  remained  there  until  all  the  captured  boats 
arrived,  and  then  marched  to  Kosheh.  Here  I  received  the 
following  message  from  the  lieutenant-general  commanding  : — 

'  The  Lieu  tenant-General  desires  to  express  to  Br. -General 
Butler  the  satisfaction  with  which  he  has  read  the  report  of  his 
proceeding  since  the  action  of  the  30th  ulto.,  and  of  his  activity 
and  energy  in  following  up  the  enemy,  which  has  resulted  in  the 
important  capture  of  nine  laden  Nuggers,  which  it  is  believed  are 
the  remainder  of  the  enemy's  river  transport  north  of  Kaibar. 
The  Lieutenant-General  wishes  General  Butler  to  convey  to  Major 
Smith-Dorrien,  Major  Lloyd,  and  Captain  Page  of  the  Lotus  the 
expression  of  his  satisfaction  at  the  able  and  successful  manner  in 
which  they  have  carried  out  his  orders,  as  well  as  to  Sergeant 
Sullivan,  C.  and  T.  Corps,  for  the  efficient  manner  in  which, 
under  circumstances  of  some  difficulty,  he  forwarded  supplies  to 
the  moimted  troops  in  advance.  The  Lieutenant-General  has 
forwarded  General  Butler's  report  to  the  Secretary  of  State  for 
War.' 

I  got  back  to  Wady  Haifa  in  mid-January,  and  was  glad  to 
get  a  rest.  It  had  been  two  months  of  continuous  going.  I 
must  pass  over  the  next  couple  of  months,  and  come  to  the 
month  of  March. 

The  best  thing  about  war  is  that  it  opens  eyes  in  a  mental 
sense,  even  as  it  closes  them  in  a  bodily  one.  It  was  now  clear, 
even  to  the  Enghsh  official  in  Cairo,  that  we  had  not  a  friend 


332     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

among  the  indigenous  peoples  of  the  Nile  from  Khartoum  to 
the  sea.  The  Greek,  the  Syrian,  the  outlander  generally,  the 
Jewish  '  Shrofi/  the  semi-Christian  inhabitants  might  wish 
to  see  us  in  a  land  which  was  no  more  theirs  than  it  was  ours, 
but  the  Mohammedan,  whether  Arab  rover  or  Egyptian  vil- 
lager, regarded  us  as  the  children  of  sin  and  the  accursed  of 
God.  The  sole  thing  they  Hked  about  us  was  what  the  inhabi- 
tants of  Cj^prus  used  to  call  the  '  English  livre  sterling.'  It  was 
this  internal  weakness  in  our  position  on  the  Nile,  no  matter 
what  point  we  might  choose  for  our  frontier,  that  was  the 
real  difficulty.  It  resembled  a  bad  sea-waU  built  to  keep  the 
tides  in  check,  liable  always  to  have  the  sea  breaking  through. 

As  soon  as  the  little  campaign  at  Kosheh  was  over,  the 
generals  and  their  staffs  departed  for  Cairo,  where  the  winter 
season  was  at  its  height.  Four  British  battalions  were  now  left 
in  my  command,  when  there  was  no  enemy  in  mj''  front.  Three 
months  earher,  with  ten  thousand  active  enemies  before  me, 
I  had  to  face  the  situation  with  a  single  battalion,  slowly  rein- 
forced by  a  second  one.  But  although  I  had  no  enemy  in 
front,  I  had  a  very  pressing  and  active  one  in  my  midst — 
sickness.  I  knew  the  Nile  pretty  well  by  this  time.  Keep  the 
men  moving,  give  them  something  to  prevent  their  minds 
from  rusting,  and  you  get  on  fairly  weU  in  these  Nubian  deserts. 
Stop,  form  camps,  remove  the  interests  of  active  life,  and 
immediately  fevers  in  their  worst  form  would  show,  increasing 
with  the  rising  temperature  of  the  summer  months,  until  they 
decimated  the  ranks  and  sapped  the  strength  of  entire 
battahons.  The  usual  drift  of  indecision  was  apparently  now 
setting  in  in  London. 

A  reoccupation  of  Dongola  after  Ginniss  would  have  been  a 
fortnight's  work,  but,  in  the  then  state  of  affairs  in  the  Soudan 
and  in  Egypt,  that  occupation  would  have  made  our  position 
only  more  costly,  more  difficult,  and  more  insecure.  Our 
soldiers  would  only  have  died  in  Dongola,  when  the  hot  weather 
came,  instead  of  in  Wady  Haifa  or  at  Assouan.  For  English 
troops  and  English  gold  this  Soudan  was  only  a  bag  without  a 
bottom. 

These,  however,  were  the  larger  and  more  general  aspects 
of  the  situation  I  had  now  to  deal  with.  The  particular  thing 
in  front  of  me  was  the  rapid  approach  of  the  hot  season,  and 


WARNING  WORDS  333 

the  certainty,  to  my  mind,  of  having  in  a  few  weeks  to  deal 
with  a  great  outbreak  of  sickness  among  the  three  thousand 
troops  at  and  south  of  Wady  Haifa.  At  this  distance  of  time 
I  should  not  have  written  the  word  '  certainty,'  if  I  had  not 
had  before  me  now  some  of  the  least  among  the  warning  "words 
I  then  sent  hy  telegraph  and  letter  to  my  official  superiors 
in  Cairo  and  London.  They  may  perhaps  be  of  use  to  men 
in  the  future  who  are  in  positions  similar  to  mine  then.  As 
earl}^  as  12th  Februar}^  I  telegraphed  the  general  in  Assouan  : — 

'  We  are  now  approaching  a  very  trying  season  for  English 
troops  :  we  are  occupying  camping  grounds  which  have  been  much 
fouled  by  previous  occupation,  and  from  which  it  is  impossible  to 
change.  Our  sick-list  is  exceptionally  high,  nearly  ten  per  cent, 
being  in  hospital ;  our  barrack  equipment  is  nil.  We  have  neither 
bedsteads,  mattresses,  tables,  nor  forms.  Three  out  of  my  four 
battalions  are  in  tents,  and  to  build  huts  for  men  will  be  a  work 
of  much  time,  since  the  district  is  almost  destitute  of  timber  and 
straw  for  roofs.  I  have  now  inspected  the  four  battalions  in  this 
command  in  their  new  dispositions,  and  I  beg  the  favour  of  the 
transmission  of  this  telegram  to  Cairo,  and  if  necessary  to  England, 
so  that  the  fullest  effort  may  be  made,  while  there  is  time,  for  the 
provision  of  the  requisites  which  will  make  life  endurable  during 
the  hot  season.  There  have  been  fourteen  deaths  in  the  last  four 
weeks,  which  are  the  coolest  and  healthiest  in  the  year.' 

These  urgent  messages  only  brought  fresh  queries,  and 
demands  for  further  reports.     I  had  to  show  cause.     I  did  so. 

'  I  stated  in  my  No.  199  that  Kosheh  hospital  was  being  adminis- 
tered from  Assouan,  and  hence  there  was  delay  in  receiving  medi- 
cines, which  was  detrimental  to  the  sick.  Now  for  facts.  I  found 
many  men  (there)  lying  on  the  ground,  and  the  reason  given  by 
medical  officer  was  that  he  could  not  get  a  decision  from  Assouan 
as  to  the  number  of  beds  he  was  to  keep  up.  He  also  said  that  he 
had  asked  Assouan  on  the  18th  January  for  important  medicines, 
but  had  not  yet  received  them  on  the  7th  February.  Not  a  day 
passes  that  I  do  not  find  proof  of  the  error  of  trying  to  administer 
these  distant  stations  from  Assouan  instead  of  from  the  hospital 
here.  I  represented  this  months  ago.  All  I  asked  was  that  the 
Medical  Department  should  have  the  same  measure  of  local  adminis- 
tration given  to  it  as  was  accorded  to  the  Ordnance  and  Commis- 
sariat. I  have  no  personal  interest  in  the  matter.  I  strive  to  do 
the  best  for  the  good  of  those  under  my  command.     I  can  point 


334     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

through  five  months  to  a  long  series  of  recommendations  and  pro- 
posals, many  of  which,  opposed  at  first,  are  now  admitted  to  have 
been  right.  Camerons  and  Durhams  have  over  ten  per  cent.  sick. 
Staffords  and  Berks  are  more  healthy  ;  but  the  sick-rate  is  increasing, 
not  diminishing.' 

On  19th  February  I  wired  : — 

'  I  have  again  most  urgently  to  call  attention  to  the  state  of  the 
sick  in  this  command.  We  have  now  two  hundred  and  eight  sick 
here.  When  I  had  only  one  battalion  in  brigade  the  evacuation 
of  the  sick  down  the  river  was  continuous  ;  now,  with  a  heavy  sick- 
roll  in  four  battalions,  none  are  sent  away,  and  more  than  two 
hundred  sick  men  are  kept  crowded  in  narrow  spaces,  amid  the 
noises  of  a  camp  ;  even  the  woimded  of  Ginniss  are  kept  here,  losing 
spirits  daily  amid  the  sad  surroundings  of  numerous  sick  people. 
Two  deaths  yesterday.  The  hospital  is  so  overcrowded  that  even 
'post  mortem  dissections  were  carried  on  in  sight  of  the  sick  men. 
While  this  state  of  things  has  been  going  on,  the  principal  medical 
officer  is  content  to  sit  afar  off  (at  Assouan)  writing  verbose  objec- 
tions to  a  better  system,  and  opposing  my  repeated  protests.  If  we 
had  a  single  newspaper  correspondent  here,  the  system  would  not 
last  a  day.' 

It  has  been  my  misfortune  in  life  to  see  a  few  things  a  long 
way  off,  and  to  make  some  enemies  by  that  foresight.  This 
was  one  of  these  occasions.  AU  I  got  in  reply  was  a  demand  to 
put  my  opinions  and  requirements  into  the  usual  official  form 
of  a  letter,  and  to  submit  it  for  the  consideration  of  my 
superiors.  As  we  were  already  on  the  threshold  of  the  hot 
season,  this  altogether  unnecessary  delay  made  me  feel  angry, 
but  I  sat  down  at  once  and  wrote  : — 

'5th  March  1886. 

'  Sm, — On  many  occasions  during  the  past  month  I  have  put 
forward  by  telegraph  the  requirements  of  the  troops  under  my 
conmiand  for  the  ensuing  summer,  as  regards  hutting,  fuller  pro- 
vision of  barrack  equipment,  protection  from  the  sun,  means  of 
supplying  ice,  solar  hats,  fuel  (for  boiling  water),  etc.,  etc.  These 
demands  were  made  in  such  ample  form,  and  with  such  full  recogni- 
tion of  the  necessities  of  the  Soudan  summer,  that  a  further  report 
upon  them  must,  so  far  as  the  requirements  are  concerned,  take  the 
form  of  recapitulation  and  of  a  progress  report  so  far  as  it  relates 
to  the  work  already  accomplished. 


STATE  OF  THE  SICK  335 

*  As  the  urgency  of  various  matters  involved  appeared  to  me  to 
override  all  other  considerations,  I  deviated  from  the  instructions 
contained  in  the  adjutant-general's  minute  of  the  25th  January, 
which  directed  me  to  cause  projects  and  estimates  to  be  prepared. 
As  I  had  had  but  too  ample  an  experience,  in  eighteen  months' 
service  on  the  upper  Nile,  of  the  delays  which  are  inseparable  from 
ihe  conditions  of  the  transport  service  on  the  river,  I  took  immedi- 
ate st«ps  to  construct  huts  at  Kosheh,  Akasha,  and  Wady  Haifa, 
and  in  order  to  induce  rapid  building,  I  fixed  the  scale  of  remunera- 
tion for  troops  and  natives  at  so  much  per  hut,  if  completed  in  a 
given  time. 

'  This  plan  has  resulted  in  the  huts  of  the  Durham  Battalion  at 
Kosheh  being  raised  to  an  average  elevation  of  nine  feet  in  only  a 
fortnight's  labour,  a  result  which  presents  a  striking  contrast  to 
the  erection  of  huts  last  year  at  Assouan,  Korosko,  and  Haifa,  at 
some  of  which  places  the  troops  were  not  hutted  until  the  hot 
season  was  near  its  close.' 

After  treating  in  succession  all  the  subjects  already  raised 
in  my  telegrams,  and  giving  a  list  of  our  most  pressing  wants — 
'  three  thousand  bedsteads  and  paillasses,  tables,  forms,  four 
thousand  sun  hats,  burning  glasses  for  boiling  water,  with  proper 
kettles  to  suit  them,  similar  to  those  used  by  the  French  troops 
in  the  Sahara  ' — I  pointed  out  that  as  we  were  at  that  moment 
sending  fuel  by  rail  to  Akasha,  thence  by  boat  to  Dal,  thence 
by  camels  to  Sarkamotto,  and  finally  by  boat  to  Kosheh,  at 
great  cost  and  labour,  these  glasses  would  soon  repay  their 
cost.  I  alluded  too  to  the  sense  of  isolation  which  was  felt  by 
the  soldiers  of  the  brigade,  who  now  regarded  themselves  as 
being  '  almost  beyond  the  outside  edge  of  the  Empire.  They 
look  in  vain  for  any  reference  to  them  in  the  home  newspapers, 
and  the  very  existence  of  this  distant  frontier  appears  to  be 
lost  sight  of  at  home.'  No  doubt  there  were  reasons,  political 
or  other,  for  this  state  of  seclusion,  but  soldiers  could  not 
be  expected  to  imderstand  these  causes  ;  and  the  sense  of  being 
forgotten  or  ignored,  when  men  are  engaged  in  very  arduous 
work  under  trjing  conditions  of  climate  upon  a  distant  and 
exposed  frontier,  is  not  conducive  to  their  health  or  \  con- 
tentment.    I  ended  thus  : — 

'  In  conclusion,  I  would  desire  to  impress  upon  the  authorities 
the  gravity  of  the  sense  which  I  entertained  of  the  medical  and 


336     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

sanitary  situation  as  it  now  presents  itself  here.  Camping-plaoes 
have  been  fouled  by  long-continued  occupation,  English  and  native. 
Chained  as  we  are  by  the  river  and  to  particular  situations  on  its 
banks  by  strategic,  railway,  and  store  considerations,  it  is  impossible 
to  abandon  these  sites  or  to  move  to  ground  free  from  contamination. 
Our  sick-list  is  steadily  on  the  increase,  and  is  undoubtedly  high 
in  some  battalions,  being  as  much  as  twelve  per  cent.  ;  but  what 
I  regard  as  being  far  more  serious  is  the  fact  that  enteric  fever, 
so  far  the  British  soldier's  worst  enemy  in  the  Soudan,  is  showing 
marked  tendency  towards  development.  At  Akasha  the  type  of 
this  disease  has  been  peculiarly  virulent,  and,  as  already  mentioned, 
five  deaths  have  taken  place  in  one  day  at  that  small  station.  There 
are  some  sixty  cases  of  enteric  fever  now  in  the  four  battalions,  yet 
the  season  has  been  the  coolest  and  healthiest  period  of  the  year. 
Finally,  I  consider  that,  grave  as  the  outlook  for  the  summ.er  must 
be,  the  only  means  of  meeting  it  will  be  found  in  a  full  recognition 
of  the  fact  that,  whUe  geographical  isolation  has  raised  insuperable 
obstacles  in  the  way  of  distant  centralised  administration,  it  has  also 
imposed  upon  the  line  of  communications,  upon  Assouan  and  upon 
Cairo,  very  urgent  necessities  of  supply.' 

That  letter  brought  matters  to  a  climax.  It  must  have 
reached  Cairo  about  the  4th,  and  England,  in  some  form,  not 
later  than  the  20tli  March.  On  the  23rd  March  I  received  a 
telegram  announcing  that  all  the  British  troops  at  Haifa  and 
to  the  south  of  it  were  to  be  immediately  withdrawn.  I  had 
probably  saved  the  lives  of  several  hundred  soldiers.  The  order 
for  immediate  withdrawal  had  come,  but  too  late  to  save  the 
lives  of  many  poor  fellows.  The  heat  came  early  in  April, 
and  during  the  withdrawal  the  men  began  to  sicken  and  die 
rapidly.  Extracts  from  my  private  letters  will  best  teU  the 
tale  : — 

'  Halfa,  ISth  April 

'  I  am  still  here,  and  at  work  removing  stores  and  men.  Another 
week  should  see  this  station  (Haifa)  closed.  Only  one  battalion  is 
now  left,  and  the  place  begins  to  look  very  lonely.  Yesterday  we 
sent  off  seven  hundred  animals  and  about  one  thousand  men.  It 
is  full  time,  as  the  heat  is  killing  the  poor  sick  men  fast.  We  have 
lost  eight  in  the  last  few  days.  What  a  dreary  prospect  it  would 
have  been  had  Ave  been  condemned  to  remain  on  here  during  the 
whole  hot  season  seven  months  from  now.' 


HOME  LETTERS  CONTINUED  337 

'  Half  A,  25th  April. 
'  The  weather  has  become  frightfully  hot.  Thermometer  one 
hundred  and  four  degrees  in  the  coolest  part  of  the  "  Fostat " 
(dahabiyeh),  and  one  hundred  and  twenty- two  degrees  in  tents  with 
a  furnace  wind  blowing  and  clouds  of  dust.  It  has  killed  twenty- 
two  of  our  poor  fellows  in  fourteen  days  here.  There  are,  besides, 
some  four  hundred  sick  men  sent  down  the  river  of  whose  losses  I 
don't  yet  know.     How  accurately  I  foretold  what  was  coming, 

when and thought  that  I  was  exaggerating  the  prospects 

before  us  !  The  last  battalion  leaves  here  to-morrow,  but  I  am  to 
stay  behind.  I  shall  be  a  general  without  any  soldiers  on  a  frontier 
which  is  supposed  to  be  hostile  !  ' 

*  Halfa,  3rd  May. 

'  This  should  be  my  last  letter  to  you  from  Wady  Haifa,  but  I 
cannot  yet  say  for  certain,  as  I  can  get  no  orders  from  Cairo.  They 
are,  I  fear,  treating  me  after  their  old  manner,  and  they  now  want 
to  detain  me  here  without  troops,  commissariat,  or  occupation. 
The  weather  is  as  hot  as  it  can  be.  It  is  an  awful-looking  place, 
glaring,  burning,  and  baking.  The  station  grew  more  and  more 
unhealthy,  and  I  am  glad  that  the  poor  fellows  are  out  of  it ;  twenty- 
five  died  of  heat  and  fever  last  month  (AprO).' 

All  the  Egyptian  troops  had  now  arrived,  and  the  forts,  stores, 
etc.,  had  been  handed  over  to  them. 

•  Wady  Halfa,  10th  May. 
'  When  I  last  wrote  I  thought  my  letter  was  to  be  a  final  one  to 
you  from  this  place.  It  looks  now  as  though  I  should  be  detained 
here  for  perhaps  a  long  while.  I  do  not  know  why  ;  there  is  no 
work  for  me  to  do,  no  troops  to  command.  It  is  a  week  now  since 
the  last  ton  of  stores  and  the  last  "  detail "  of  men  left  here,  yet  I 
still  remain  all  alone,  and  apparently  for  a  long  period.  Up  to  the 
removal  of  the  last  battalion,  I  was  allowed  to  think  that  I  should 
go  with  the  last  of  my  troops,  so  I  reduced  my  servants,  sold  my 
horse,  and  prepared  to  leave ;  then  at  the  last  moment  I  am  told 
that  I  must  stay  here.  So  here  I  am  still.  You  cannot  imagine 
the  desolation  and  loneliness  of  the  place  now.  Where  "  Biscuit 
Box  Town  "  and  "  Bully  Beef  Tin  City  "  once  stood,  all  is  vacant, 
wind-swept  space.  We  have  had  a  month  of  terribly  hot  weather. 
In  a  fortnight  our  loss  at  Assouan,  Korosko,  and  here  has  been  forty 
men.  Not  a  word  of  this  is  allowed  to  get  out  from  Cairo,  and 
while  you  can  read  telegrams  from  Burmah  announcing  the  death  of 
Private  Jones  from  heat  or  fever,  here  there  is  profound  silence 
over  the  deaths  of  forty  poor  Jones's  from  the  same  causes.     As  for 

Y 


338    SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

a  Ginniss  gazette,  I  shall  believe  in  it  when  I  see  it.  However,  with 
the  help  of  God  I  hope  to  live  through  spites  and  flings  as,  with  His 
help,  I  have  survived  a  few  others  before.  Poor  Martin,  "  the  big 
man,"  died  at  Assouan  of  sunstroke  two  days  ago.' 

'23rd  May. 

'  Unless  my  health  breaks  I  must  stay  until  August.  It  is  possible 
that,  alarmed  at  the  great  mortality  among  the  troops,  the  Govern- 
ment will  order  the  removal  of  the  EngUsh  garrison  from  Assouan ; 
but  there  are  no  newspaper  men  to  let  truth  out  or  in,  and  the  usual 
silence  is  maintained  as  to  what  goes  on  here.' 

«  30th  May. 

'  I  must  write  you  a  short  letter.  .  .  .  They  are  too  many  for 
me  ;  they  are  one  thousand  miles  nearer  home ;  they  have  the 
advantages  of  "  interior  lines,"  and  they  can  warp  words  and  twist 
thoughts  and  actions  as  they  like.     But  what  does  it  all  matter  ?  ' 

'  Ith  June. 

'  Do  not  expect  a  long  letter  this  time.  I  am  wearing  out  the 
summer.  .  .  .  The  Nile  has  risen,  but  it  may  only  be  a  temporary- 
rise  ;  the  real  one  is  not  due  for  ten  days.  When  the  afternoon 
comes,  with  its  long  hot  hours,  I  pace  up  and  down  in  the  dahabiyeh. 
I  fancy  I  have  walked  scores  of  miles  now  over  those  creaking 
boards.  About  four  o'clock  the  woodwork  becomes  so  hot  that  I 
have  to  go  up  to  the  hut.  I  read  Na'poleon  at  St.  Helena  by  the 
hour.  Two  days  ago  a  very  large  crocodile  put  his  head  suddenly 
up  close  to  the  stern  of  the  dahabiyeh  ;  this  could  not  be  permitted, 
so  I  gave  him  a  bullet  in  his  head  when  he  came  up  again,  and  I 
have  not  seen  him  since.' 

'Wady  Halfa,  14<A  June. 

'  In  face  of  the  intense  heat  now  prevailing,  you  must  only  expect 
short  letters  from  me.  The  last  two  nights  have  been  nearly  as 
bad  as  the  days,  and  last  night  sleep  was  not  possible.  It  was  the 
hottest  night  I  ever  remember.  It  was  literally  stifling.  One  gasped 
and  struggled  for  breath.  I  could  not  lie  down.  I  got  at  last  into 
the  dinghy  that  was  tied  alongside  the  dahabiyeh,  and  dipping  a 
sponge  into  the  Nile,  kept  pouring  the  water  at  intervals  over  my 
head  and  body,  sitting  for  hours  on  the  boat  thwarts  in  wet  night- 
clothes.  Nevertheless,  I  am  keeping  well,  thank  God,  but  our 
poor  officers  and  men  are  suffering  terribly  at  Assouan.  In  the 
twenty-four  hours  ending  at  3  p.m.  yesterday,  eleven  officers  and 
men  died  there.  More  than  three  months  ago  I  told  the  authorities 
what  they  might  expect,  but  I  wasn't  listened  to.  Not  a  word  about 
this  mortality  gets  to  England,  and  yet  we  have  not  had  in  this 


HOME  LETTERS  CONTIJSTUED  339 

generation  such  a  rate  of  mortality  as  this  among  British  soldiers. 
More  than  a  hundred  and  thirty  have  died  in  two  months,  and  six 
hundred  sick  men  have  been  sent  away  ;  still  the  sick-rate  goes  up. 
I  hope  to  leave  here  for  Assouan  to-morrow.  [The  prohibition  had 
now  been  withdrawn.]  I  have  urged  the  Cairo  people  to  remove 
the  remainder  of  the  troops  from  Assouan  while  there  is  any  re- 
mainder remaining.  The  temperature  yesterday  was  one  hundred 
and  seventeen  degrees  in  the  shade.'  i 

The  next  glimpse  of  affairs  is  from  Assouan  : — 

'  24:ih  June  18S6. 
'  I  got  down  from  Wady  Haifa  a  week  ago.  How  long  they 
intend  to  leave  me  here  I  don't  know.  I  have  been  down  with 
fever  for  the  last  three  days,  and  writing  is  an  effort.  It  has  been  a 
bilious  fever  like  those  on  the  West  Coast  of  Africa  I  suffered  so 
much  from  twelve  years  ago.  I  am  better  to-day,  but  with  the 
shade  temperature  at  one  hundred  and  seven  degrees  it  is  not  easy 
to  pick  up.  Our  losses  have  been  very  severe.  Things  are  now 
better  ;  six  hundred  weakly  men  have  been  sent  down  river,  in 
addition  to  six  hundred  sick.  What  criminal  folly  it  is  keeping 
Enghsh  soldiers  here  in  the  hot  season  !  ' 

That  letter  was  to  be  my  last  from  the  Soudan.     I  had 

'  From  the  previous  raouth  of  October,  as  soou  as  I  had  thoroughly  examined 
the  Hue  of  the  railway  thiougli  the  Batu-el-Hager  and  the  country  lying  to  the 
south  of  its  terniinus  at  Akasha,  I  had  decided  against  the  possibility  of  main- 
taining our  present  position  south  of  Wady  Haifa.  We  were  bound  either  to 
advance  or  to  retire.  To  advance  would  mean  the  reconquest  of  the  Soudau,  a 
feat  of  arms  which  neither  England  nor  Egypt  was  then  prepared  to  undertake 
either  with  men  or  money.  To  retire  to  Wady  Haifa,  giving  up  the  line  of 
railway,  promised  several  advantages — first,  the  withdrawal  of  troops  from  a 
climate  in  which  they  could  not  live  in  the  summer,  except  with  immense  loss 
of  life  and  physical  enfeeblement,  and  the  substitution  in  their  place  at  Assouan 
and  Wady  Haifa  of  the  Egyptian  army.  Second,  an  enormous  saving  in  the 
cost  of  tlie  frontier  garrisons.  Third,  having  the  cataracts  and  the  wilderness 
of  the  Batn-el-Hager  in  front  of  our  troops  instead  of  behind  them,  thus  giving 
the  Dervishes,  if  they  still  wished  to  attack  us,  a  present  of  those  obstacles  to 
transport,  maintenance,  and  movement,  which  had  proved  so  formidable  to  our- 
selves. The  experience  gained  in  the  four  following  months  had  strengthened 
these  conclusions,  all  of  which  I  had  already  communicated  to  the  authorities  in 
England.  With  the  approach  of  the  liot  season  and  our  rapidly  increasing  sick- 
list,  I  saw  that  the  question  would  not  admit  of  further  delay  or  postponement. 
I  saw  too,  that  the  Egyptian  army  was  no  longer  to  be  regarded  as  a  nursling  and 
unfit  to  be  trusted  with  frontier  work.  Its  English  officers  were  of  the  best  in 
our  army.  The  macliine  which  Sir  Evelyn  Wood  had  designed  and  established 
four  years  earlier  had  now  reached  a  very  high  degree  of  efficiencj%  and  it 
seemed  to  be  the  most  ordinary  common  sense  that  it  should  take  its  proper 
place  on  the  frontier,  and  that,  if  I'^nglish  troops  were  still  to  be  maintained  in 
Egypt,  they  should  be  kept  within  the  triangle  Suez — Cairo — Alexandria,  where 
at  least  the  climate  would  allow  them  to  live  in  summer. 


340     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

managed,  the  day  following  my  arrival,  to  get  to  the  camp 
and  the  hospitals  on  Tagool  heights,  above  the  First  Cataract. 
The  heat  was  blinding,  varying  one  day  to  another  between 
one  hundred  and  twelve  and  one  hundred  and  twenty-two 
degrees  in  the  shade.  On  the  13th  June  it  reached  the  latter 
figure,  and,  as  I  have  said,  caused  the  deaths  of  eleven  officers 
and  men  out  of  a  garrison  of  about  one  thousand.  The  poor 
fellows  were  pitiable  objects,  lying  like  gasping,  stranded  fish 
in  this  killing  heat  ;  a  few  degrees  of  higher  temperature, 
and  the  whole  must  have  perished.  They  were  very  patient, 
lying  in  a  state  of  exhaustion,  helpless  and  hopeless.  The 
Dorset  Regiment,  recently  arrived,  and  composed  of  very 
young  soldiers,  were  the  heaviest  sufferers  ;  they  were  losing 
three  and  four  men  daily.  A  curious  idea  had  got  into  the 
soldiers'  mmds.  An  old  Coptic  burying  cavern  of  great  size 
had  been  discovered  in  the  hills  above  Assouan,  and  a  vast 
number  of  wooden  coffins  were  found  in  it.  The  usual  tomb- 
rifling  had  taken  place.  It  was  said  that  the  old  dusty  coffins 
had  been  utihsed  by  the  contractor  who  supplied  the  bread 
to  the  army  for  heating  his  ovens,  and  the  epidemic  was  sup- 
posed to  have  had  its  source  in  this  unhallowed  fuel.  But 
there  was  no  need  to  seek  for  causes  such  as  these  :  one  hundred 
and  twenty-two  degrees  Fahrenheit  in  the  shade  needs  no 
occult  help  from  dead  men's  dust  or  Coptic  coffins  to  fill  a  new 
graveyard.  The  military  cemetery  at  Assouan,  begim  a  j^ear  and 
a  half  before  this  time,  had  now  to  shut  its  gates  ;  it  was  full. 
When  I  was  on  the  West  Coast  of  Africa,  twelve  years  before 
this  time,  a  story  used  to  be  told  of  an  Irish  captain  in  some 
West  Indian  regiment  stationed  on  the  L^'pper  Gambia,  who 
had  sent  a  despatch  to  our  old  friends  the  Authorities  to  the 
effect  that  he  could  not  advise  them  to  send  any  more  white 
troops  to  his  station,  Bathurst,  as  the  last  man  had  died,  and 
there  was  not  room  in  the  graveyard  for  any  more.  Such  un- 
wonted words,  when  they  reached  home,  quickened  the  languid 
senses  of  the  officials  who  had  to  deal  with  this  particular  part 
of  the  Empire,  and  orders  were  issued  to  send  a  despatch  boat 
to  Bathurst  for  mquirj'  and  report.  It  came  in  due  time.  The 
circumstances  relative  to  the  late  garrison  and  the  graveyard 
were  as  stated.  Captain  O'FiUigan  was  found  in  his  bungalow, 
seated  in  a    '  Borneo  '   chair  ;   at  his  right  hand  there  was 


A  SLAVE  CONVOY  341 

a  three-Btoried  wooden  tripod,  holding  three  chatties  placed 
on©  above  the  other.  A  strong-smelling  liquid  was  dropping 
slowly  from  the  uppermost  chatty  to  the  middle  one,  and 
again  from  that  vessel  mto  the  one  underneath.  Under  this 
last  chatty  a  large  wmeglass  received  the  final  drips  from  the 
third  earthenware  cooler.  When  this  glass  was  full  the  captain 
drank  its  contents,  replacing  the  full  glass  by  one  already 
emptied.  After  breakfast  every  morning  the  top  chatty  had 
three  bottles  of  brandy  poured  into  it.  Bj^  sunset  all  the 
chatties  were  empty,  and  it  was  time  for  dinner.  The  story 
went  on  to  say  that  the  O'Filligan  was  left  at  his  post,  and  that 
no  more  white  troops  were  sent  there.  I  relate  this  old  West 
Coast  yarn,  because  it  exemplifies  a  certain  phase  of  human 
nature  which  invariably  comes  out  in  crises  of  this  nature. 
Life  will  go  on  just  the  same  as  usual  whether  you  bury  ten 
men  or  one  in  a  day.  Is  not  the  bottle  nose  of  the  '  mute  ' 
his  red  flag  of  no  surrender  ? 

Neither  at  Assouan  nor  at  Wady  Haifa  did  we,  so  far  as  I 
know,  hoist  this  flag,  but  I  find  in  my  notebooks  many  proofs 
that  the  daily  work  knew  no  change  of  method  ;  and  even  in 
Wady  Haifa,  after  all  the  EngUsh  troops  were  withdrawn,  and  I 
was  the  last  man  of  my  brigade  left,  things  of  the  most  comical 
nature  occurred.  In  the  last  week  in  May  news  was  brought 
in  from  the  desert  of  the  approach  of  a  party  of  Kabbabish 
Arabs,  with  a  large  convoy  of  slaves  m  charge.  The  messenger 
came  to  ask  if  they  might  bring  the  slaves,  some  eighty  in 
number,  in  to  the  station.  I  rephed  that  if  thej^  brought  the 
convoy  in,  they  must  do  so  subject  to  my  decision  as  to  what 
was  to  be  done  with  the  slaves  after  their  arrival.  This  they 
agreed  to,  and  the  next  day  saw  the  convoy  arrived.  It  con- 
sisted of  about  sixtj"  women  and  girls,  and  twenty  j'ouths  and 
men.  All  were  from  Central  Africa.  I  had  quarters  and  food 
ready,  and  black  soldiers  for  guards.  The  excitement  in  Wady 
Haifa  was  intense.  All  the  Arab  and  Greek  traders,  the  owners 
of  whisky-shops,  and  the  Bazaar  people  generally,  had  one 
common  bond  of  interest  and  sympathy  uniting  their  otherwise 
separate  interests — slaves.  The  slave  is  to  Africa  what  coin, 
sport,  capital,  and  labour  are  to  other  people  in  the  world. 
They  are  more  than  these  things,  for,  where  polygamy  exists, 
the  marriage  market  and  the  slave  market  are  one. 


342     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

I  think  it  was  the  celebrated  De  Leeseps  who,  as  a  boy  with 
his  father  in  Aleppo,  was  the  abetter  in  a  practical  joke  played 
upon  a  rich  old  Turk  who  had  discarded  one  of  his  wives.  The 
lady's  sons,  with  the  aid  of  De  Lesseps,  painted  the  discarded 
spouse  a  rich  jet-black,  and  sent  an  emissary  to  the  old  Turk 
to  ssbj  that  a  new  slave  negress  had  just  arrived  and  was  to  be 
seen  at  a  dealer's  house  in  Aleppo.  The  Turk  went  at  once 
to  see  the  new  arrival,  and  ended  by  paying  a  large  sum  for  his 
former  helpmeet  under  the  belief  that  she  was  a  new  slave.  I 
can  believe  this  story  from  what  I  saw  at  Wady  Haifa.  Wlien 
the  slave  convoy  arrived  there  I  had  already  decided  what  the 
procedure  was  to  be,  and  had  obtained  from  the  general  in 
Cairo  his  approval.  The  slaves  were  taken  from  the  Arabs 
and  declared  free,  but  as  the  poor  things  had  to  get  food  into 
their  bodies,  and  raiment  outside  them  before  they  were  fit 
to  be  seen  by  an  expectant  public,  I  had  them  carefully  housed 
in  a  large  Government  building,  where  they  were  washed  and 
fed,  and  clothed  in  Hght  and  inexpensive  d^ape^3^  Now  came 
the  question  what  was  to  be  done  with  them.  I  proposed  to 
Cairo  that  a  present  of  three  hundred  pounds  should  be  given 
to  the  chief  of  the  Kabbabish,  whose  party  would  then  be  dis- 
missed to  their  deserts  :  that  the  male  slaves  should  be  set 
free,  but  that  the  women,  who  had  declared  that  they  were 
helpless,  should  be  given  the  offer  of  marrymg  each  a  man  of 
the  Black  Battalion  formerly  stationed  at  Kosheh.  The  Black 
Battalion  and  the  black  ladies  readily  accepted  this  proposed 
solution.  In  order  to  carry  it  out  with  the  fullest  solemnity 
of  the  Mohammedan  marriage  rites,  the  Cadi  and  the  Mamour 
of  the  district  were  summoned  to  attend  and  perform  their 
several  functions,  rehgious  and  civil.  The  eventful  daj^  came. 
The  Cadi,  the  Mamour,  and  an  oflScer  representing  the  Egyptian 
Government  were  present,  seated  at  a  table.  The  method  of 
selection  presented  the  chief  difficulty.  It  was  determined 
as  follows  :  A  black  lady  stood  in  front  of  the  Cadi's  table  ; 
three  black  soldiers  from  a  list  of  specially  selected  men  were 
marched  in,  halted  by  a  word  of  command,  and  turned,  facing 
the  black  lady,  who  was  told  to  take  her  choice.  She  looked 
at  them  and  they  at  her,  the  three  black  men  showing  much 
more  confusion  oi  mind  and  manners  than  the  one  black 
woman.     It  was  explained  to  her  that  she  was  not  obliged 


THE  HEAT  TELLS  MORE  AND  MORE    343 

to  select  any  of  the  three  put  forward,  and  that  there  were 
several  other  threes  in  waiting  ;  but,  in  almost  every  case,  she 
took  her  choice  easily  and  without  restraint.  Then  the  Cadi 
and  the  Mamour  performed  their  respective  functions,  and 
again  and  again  the  same  process  went  on,  with  military 
precision.  A  piece  of  paper  was  handed  to  the  sable  couple, 
who  usually  disappeared  through  the  doorway  at  the  back, 
hand  in  hand.  It  took  two  or  three  hours  to  marry  the  whole 
female  contingent,  and  when  the  proceedings  terminated,  it 
may  safely  be  said  that  in  all  the  long  sad  history  of  African 
slavery  there  had  never  been  a  happier  ending  to  a  slave 
convoy.  But  the  most  amusing  incident  in  the  proceedings 
immediately  followed.  All  the  married  men  vied  with  each 
other  in  decking  their  brides  in  the  best  European  finery  which 
the  Bazaar  in  Wady  Haifa  could  furnish,  and  within  an  hour 
or  two  of  the  conclusion  of  the  marriage  contracts  the  sable 
brides  were  resplendent  in  the  brightest-coloured  muslins  and 
calicoes,  many  of  them  in  high-heeled  boots,  and  nearly  all 
displaying,  as  they  strutted  about  the  Bazaar,  parasols,  scarves, 
and  feathered  hats  in  great  variety.  The  process  of  civilisa- 
tion in  its  most  modern  and  advanced  form  had  taken  a  matter 
of  two  hours.  The  pose  of  the  parasol  over  the  left  or  right 
ear  was  what  pleased  me  most — it  was  perfect.  Who  knows  ? 
perhaps  the  French  fashion-plate  in  the  halfpenny  papers  is 
destined  to  do  more  for  African  civilisation  than  all  the  human- 
ising efforts  of  minister,  soldier,  sailor,  marine,  and  ordinary 
European  trader  in  the  past  five  hundred  years. 

As  the  month  of  June  went  on,  the  heat  at  Assouan,  now 
unceasing,  told  more  and  more  upon  me.  The  old  adage  of  the 
fish  out  of  water  was  apphcable  for  seven  hours  in  every 
twenty-four,  only  that  the  fish  was  frying  in  a  hot  pan  at  the 
same  time  that  he  gasped  for  breath.  It  was  curious  to  notice 
how  the  scorched  brain,  whenever  it  dozed  off  in  a  haK-conscious 
state,  began  to  see  green  fields  and  hear  cool  sounds  and 
imagine  rushes  and  brooks.  The  brain  had  its  mirages  as  weU 
as  the  desert.  One's  thoughts  reverted  to  distant  scenes  in 
North  America,  snow-sheeted  lakes,  and  nights  of  long  ago 
when  the  Aurora  flickered  over  great  pine  woods. 

What  strange  extremes  of  heat  and  cold  my  life  had  seen  ! 
Fifty-three  degrees  below  zero  on  the  North  Saskatchewan, 


344     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

and  here  on  the  Nile  one  hundred  and  twenty-two  degrees  in 
the  shade,  above,  or  a  range  equal  to  that  between  the  freezing 
point  of  water  and  its  boihng  point.  Of  the  two  extremes, 
I  verj^  much  preferred  the  freezing  stage.  One  might  roast  or 
boil  oneself  when  freezing,  but  there  was  no  possibility  of 
freezing  the  boiling  blood.  I  have  known  nothing  sadder,  in 
the  course  of  my  service,  than  the  feeling  that  all  those  deaths 
and  invalidings  had  been  absolutely  unnecessary — as  much  so, 
indeed,  as  though  every  one  of  these  three  hundred  young 
soldiers  had  been  pitched  from  the  cliffs  above  the  First 
Cataract  into  the  Nile  with  a  stone  tied  to  his  neck.  To  me  it 
was  in  an  especial  degree  irritating,  because  I  had  foreseen  it 
in  ample  time  to  have  it  avoided. 

Young  man,  if  you  would  be  happy  in  life,  if  you  would  die 
rich  and  respected,  do  not  see  too  far  ahead  !  The  rock,  the 
wreck,  the  lighthouse  are  aU  steps  in  the  same  ladder,  suc- 
cessive numbers  in  the  catalogue  ;  but  nobody  wiU  ever  thank . 
you  for  having  discovered  the  rock  before  the  ship  wa  s  wrecked 
upon  it,  and  you  may  be  quite  sure  that  when  the  Trinity 
Board  erect  the  hghthouse,  they  will  not  put  your  name  upon 
it.  On  the  whole,  summing  it  all  up  now,  I  should  be  disposed 
to  think  that  the  man  fares  best  who  does  his  best  and  leaves 
the  rest.  He  is  then  like  the  man  who  is  dealt  two  aces  in 
*  vingt-et-un.'  He  stands  to  win  on  either  card.  If  his  pro- 
phecy has  come  true,  he  has  made  no  enemies.  If  it  has 
proved  false,  it  is  only  his  friends  who  will  remind  him 
of  it. 

For  myself,  the  end  of  my  work  in  the  Soudan  had  now 
come.  I  had  been  losing  strength  for  weeks,  and  the  low  fever 
which  made  food  nauseous  ran  one  down  stiU  quicker.  I  find 
no  letter  and  no  entry  in  a  notebook  from  the  24th  June  to 
the  5th  July,  and  I  have  only  the  haziest  recollection  of  that 
interval.  I  must  have  reached  the  condition  of  lethargic 
acceptation  which  I  had  noticed  so  often  in  the  sick  cases  in 
hospital. 

One  day  in  the  end  of  June  at  Assouan  the  senior  army 
doctor  came  to  see  me.  '  You  must  go  down  the  river  to  a 
cooler  climate,'  he  said  ;  '  you  wiU  not  get  better  here.'  '  But 
I  can't  go,'  I  said  ;  '  they  have  ordered  me  to  remain  here, 
and  I  won't  ask  them  for  leave.'     '  Then  I  '11  send  you  down,' 


END  OF  THE  SOIJDAN  CHAPTER  345 

he  Bald.     The  next  morning  I  was  moved  mto  a  steamboat, 
and  sent  down  river. 

On  the  5th  July  I  wrote  from  Shepheard's  Hotel,  Cairo  : — 

'  Here  I  am,  thanks  to  the  doctor,  on  my  way  home  on  four 
months'  leave.  In  Assouan  I  had  no  chance,  ^\'ith  the  thermometer 
at  one  hundred  and  ten  degrees,  so  they  sent  me  down,  and,  a  board 
having  sat  upon  me  here,  I  have  been  given  four  months'  sick-leave 
to  England,  I  am  only  weak,  and  have  now  no  fever  ;  all  I  want 
is  rest.  I  am  "  played  out,"  that  is  all.  .  .  .  Don't  say  anything 
to  anybody.  .  .  . 

'  A  week  in  Glencar  would  do  more  for  me  than  all  the  doctors 
in  Europe.  It  feels  quite  cool  here  after  Assouan  and  Haifa.  Don't 
expect  a  longer  letter.     Writing  is  troublesome.' 

And  so  ended  the  Soudan  chapter  in  my  life  which,  notwith- 
standing all  its  hard  and  rugged  daj's  and  its  disappointments, 
has  remained  a  memor}-  of  lasting  interest  with  me.  All  the 
books  ever  written  about  the  Arab  could  not  have  taught  me 
the  tenth  part  of  what  I  now  knew  of  that  oldest  and  yoimgest 
man  on  earth.  I  had  come  to  be  fond  of  this  Arab,  and  of  the 
deserts,  and  the  river  where  he  lived.  We  had  been  calling 
him  all  sorts  of  bad  names  for  two  years  past,  killing  him 
whenever  we  got  the  chance,  but,  all  the  same,  he  was  the 
better  man  of  the  two.  Had  the  weapons  been  steel  he  would 
have  licked  us,  one  to  our  three.  And  this  great  river — what 
an  endless  lesson  it  was  !  A  whole  Bible  in  its  palms  and  its 
reeds  shaking  in  the  desert  winds.  Cradle  and  grave  of  aU 
things  ;  beginning  and  end  of  empires,  builder  and  leveller  of 
human  pride  ;  life  in  death  and  death  in  life  ;  earliest  civiliser 
and  latest  destroyer  ;  old  in  the  oldest  daj's  of  which  there  is 
record,  and  young  and  vigorous  to-dajT-  as  when  the  Pj^amids 
were  bom  out  of  its  '  womb  of  rocks.'  I  am  not  a  believer  in 
the  success  of  any  attempt  to  change  the  nature  and  alter  the 
habits  of  life  of  the  true  Arabian  race.  Living  side  by  side 
with  the  Arab,  you  are  seeing  the  Old  Testament  as  j'ou  never 
before  saw  it.  Things  are  there  still  as  they  were.  You  imagiue 
in  England  that  you  are  the  true  inheritors,  the  rightful  suc- 
cessors, of  these  old  patriarchs  and  prophets  and  kings  and 
people  generally.  You  are  in  reality  further  removed  even  in 
your  little  Bethels  and  big  conventicles  from  all  sense  and  spirit 
of  the  old  life  of  Jordan  and  Galilee,  of  Samaria  and  Judea, 


346     SIR  WILLIAM  BUTLER  :   AN  AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

than  are  the  inhabitants  of  Greenland  from  those  of  Peru. 
Arab  Mohammedanism  is  a  thousand  times  closer  akin  to  the 
•wa,ya  and  days  of  David  than  you  are ;  I  am  not  quite  sure 
that  it  is  not  even  nearer  to  the  early  Christian  idea  of  life 
than  are  the  present  ideals  and  thoughts  of  the  so-caUed 
Christian  states  of  Western  Europe  ;  but  this  is  too  big  a  matter 
to  talk  of  here. 

One  little  bit  of  experience  of  Arab  or  Arab-Nubian 
ways  comes  to  mind  in  this  connection.  In  1884  I  was 
given  as  interpreter,  one  Gamaul  Ghindi  by  name,  the  most 
Europeanised  Eastern  I  have  ever  come  into  contact  with. 
His  histor}''  was  a  strange  one.  Twenty  years  earlier  a  rich 
English  lady,  travelling  on  the  Nile,  had  seen  Gamaul  on  the 
river  shore  near  Korosko,  a  naked  brat  of  five  or  six  years. 
The  brother  of  Gamaul,  a  year  older,  had  just  been  devoured 
by  a  crocodile  ;  and  his  mother,  thinking,  perhaps,  that  a 
similar  fate  might  be  in  store  for  other  members  of  her  famUy, 
was  willing  to  surrender  this  surviving  imp  for  a  consideration 
to  the  rich  English  '  sit.'  Brought  to  England,  and  educated 
with  the  greatest  care,  Gamaul  soon  blossomed  into  a  page- 
boy of  exceptional  sharpness.  Then,  growmg  older,  \iq  became 
valet ;  was  taken  to  travel  over  Europe,  and  rapidly  acquired 
a  practical  knowledge  of  French,  German,  and  Itahan.  He 
soon  came  to  be  looked  upon  as  a  marvel  of  civilised  progress. 
Here  was  a  real  Ethiopian  who,  if  his  skiu  stiU  retained 
its  original  colour,  had  at  least  shown  himself  amenable  to 
the  most  advanced  habits  of  Western  civilisation.  He  was 
presented  in  turn  to  the  Pope  and  to  the  Emperor  of  Austria. 
^Vhen  this  man  joined  me  at  Korti  I  was  delighted  with  him  ; 
he  seemed  to  be  all  things  at  once.  He  rode  everything  from 
a  camel  to  a  donkey  ;  he  was  a  fijst-rate  shot.  Shot-gun 
cartridges  were  precious  things  on  the  Upper  Nile,  and  Ghindi 
could  manoeuvre  a  flight  of  doves  so  ably  that  he  could  secure 
with  a  single  shot  a  bag  sufficient  to  give  three  persons  a  change 
of  food  at  dinner  from  the  everlasting  tinned  beef  rations  of 
Chicago. 

One  day  I  asked  him  how  it  was  that,  with  such  a  record  of 
triumphant  career  through  the  courts  and  capitals  of  Europe, 
he  had  come  back  again  to  this  dreary  desert  world.  He 
answered  that  he  had  come  for  the  sake  of  the  sport  which  he 


A  GLIIVIPSE  OF  ARAB-NUBIAN  WAYS  347 

had  beard  was  to  be  had  on  the  Upper  Nile,  and  be  added  that 
he  was  returning  to  Austria  when  the  war  was  over  to  rejoin 
a  Viennese  wife  who  was  connected  with  a  circus  and  travelling 
menagerie  business  in  that  capital,  which  he  was  wont  to 
describe  as  bj^  far  the  most  enjoyable  centre  of  civilised  life  in 
Europe. 

When  we  returned  to  Wady  Haifa,  I  took  a  short  leave  of 
absence  to  England  ;  and,  before  starting,  I  confided  a  horse, 
a  camel,  and  a  large  donkey  to  the  care  of  Ghindi.  After  two 
months  I  was  back  again  at  Haifa,  but  no  trace  of  either 
Gamaul,  the  camel,  the  horse,  or  the  donkey  could  be  found. 
An  escaped  slave,  whom  Ghindi  had  taken  under  his  especial 
care  and  protection  at  Meroe,  had  also  disappeared.  About 
the  manumission  of  this  negro  Gamaul  had  professed  the  most 
enlightened  and  philanthropic  views  ;  so  much  so,  indeed,  that 
it  had  more  than  once  occurred  to  me  to  say  that  if  he  could 
proceed  to  England  and  deliver  a  course  of  lectures  before  a 
series  of  audiences,  with  the  sla